Can you pass this self-awareness test?

Updated: Oct 25

“Tell me, would you say you’re self-aware?”


“Me!?! Of course I’m self-aware! What a question! Who would ask such a dumb question! Everybody likes me!”


And there you have it! Of all the things you and I may or may not be experts in—from gaydar to lockpicking—the one area we can NOT self-assess is self-awareness. It’s like being funny: you’re funny if other people laugh. You’re self-aware if.... Well, what IS self-awareness?


Self-awareness is an accurate understanding of your effect on others. You have no standing to weigh in on the matter. It’s for others to judge.


The problem is that others—out of politeness or dislike of confrontation—don’t weigh in on the matter either. Which is how we live in a world of people without self-awareness. So when our spouse, for example, has the nerve to finally say, for example, “You keep telling the same stories over and over,” it’s so easy for us to respond that they’re just being mean, or petty, or lacking in self-awareness themselves.


Also, we don’t want to hear things like this, because they are a blow to our egos.

And we—like kings and queens—would much rather live in a world of flattering lies than of harsh truths that, even worse, demand change.


But this issue is important, because a person without much self-awareness is like a car without a brain behind the wheel. I know, for example, of a book club that was almost torn apart, after many happy years, by one member’s inability to see how long and boring her anecdotes were. The people in the group were getting to the breaking point, but the confrontation with the woman, when it came, felt cruel and crushing, especially in her totally absence of self-awareness. And so some members of the group said, let’s drop the matter and just suffer Jane’s stories. And suffer the quitting of at least half the group.


Self-awareness is part of a relationship’s self-healing mechanism. If I can see myself accurately in my relationship—when I’m being boring, or overbearing, or too demanding—then we can pull back from the brink. If I can, at a minimum, see myself in these ways only after they’re pointed out to me, then we’re still fine. But otherwise? We’re in trouble.


So why don’t you and your partner take a risk and see if you can see how self-aware you both are, with respect to each other? This is a win/win! Lack of self-awareness isn’t a terminal illness, unless you’re married to your blindness. But if you’re willing to see what you haven’t been seeing, then whole new worlds are open to you. As well as a better life with your partner.


The quiz is all about “What it’s like to be you being with me.”


For example, you come home and talk to your partner about your day. Which has usually been a hard day. Now this is a normal thing for people to do. But! What is it like for your partner to be on the other end of these daily dissertations on what your day was like? Do they find them...

a) Fascinating

b) Wildly entertaining

c) A welcome opportunity to be there for you

d) Boring at best

e) Annoying to the point of driving them crazy

This is important, obviously. If you’re doing something you think is okay but that’s way less okay for your partner, then there’s a real problem.


So here’s the quiz. You both answer:


1. Three things I do that I think my partner really likes:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

2. Three things about who I am that I think my partner really appreciates:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

3. Three things that my partner does that I really like:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

4. Three things about who my partner is that I really appreciate:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

5. Three things I do that I think my partner really doesn’t like:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

6. Three things about who I am that I think my partner really doesn't appreciate:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

7. Three things that my partner does that I really don’t like:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

8. Three things about who my partner is that I really don’t appreciate:

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________


Now the point of this, as I’m sure you get, is not to talk about things you like or don’t like about each other. No. It’s to look at ways you overlap or don’t overlap in your lists. If none of the things you like and don’t like about your partner appear on their list of things they think you like and don’t like, then that’s a problem!


But suppose they overlap completely. Suppose your partner is utterly self-aware of what you like and don’t like about them. That’s genuinely good news. It means you two have a shared frame of reference. It means that when you talk about a problem, the other can say, “Yes, I know, that problem is real. It exists and it’s important to you. Therefore it needs to be dealt with.”


And that’s a couple who can pull themselves out off a tailspin.


Is there a cure for lack of self-awareness? Well, that’s an interesting question! It’s really asking, Can a non-self-aware person become self-aware enough to become aware of not being self-aware?


The answer is...yes! More often than you might think. The key is not to challenge the non-self-aware person on a “you suck” basis. This, again, is how the quiz is helpful. It’s like being able to say to someone, “You snore.” No one is aware of snoring. But the person sleeping next to them is, and they can speak up about it.


The quiz makes it possible for us to have an Aha! moment like this. I thought my jokes were funny. Now I find out you don’t think they’re funny. Suddenly...I’m self-aware!


It can be as simple as that.


It just takes knowing that we love each other and care about each other but that we also know and face the truth about how we affect each other. Sometimes in ways we never suspected.


Our new book, Why Couples Fight, is, in a way, all about self-awareness. It will reveal to both of you what you do that gets you into fights and prevents you from getting your needs met.


If you find this piece interesting or helpful, please like it below and share the good stuff with your friends...


Cover image is Cecilio Pla's Humorada, 1907

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