The importance of self-awareness while selling and influencing can’t be can’t be overstated.
Daniel Goleman, author of the game-changing bestseller Emotional Intelligence, describes self-awareness – the keystone of being emotionally intelligent – as “recognising a feeling as it happens.”
For Eckhart Tolle, self-awareness is awareness of the ego while Ramana Maharshi, a revered Indian sage, would describe it as being the watcher of your thoughts.
For all of them, it is the difference between getting sucked into the vortex of emotions and maintaining a measured detachment from them. When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or find yourself feeling anxious, it’s the difference between stewing in that unproductive state and changing the channel to a different line of thinking and a better mood.
What does the importance of self-awareness have to do with selling?
The other day I helped a new company train their sales team. Pretending to be a trainee, I attended a client meeting of a salesperson (lets call him Peter) to observe and understand where I could help.
When I asked Peter about his sales challenges before the meeting, he said that he was great with clients and that whenever he spoke too much, he stopped himself to allow them to speak.
During the meeting, Peter spoke 80% of the time. He asked three questions then talked non-stop. Peter’s prospect had to jump into pauses to get a word in edgewise.
Afterwards, I asked Peter how he thought it went. His response?
“Really well. She’s definitely interested”.
If an individual lacks self-awareness, there can be a significant gap between what they think they do and how they actually act. In other words, they have “blindspots” which affect how they engage with others.
The reasons for this vary but this University of Florida psychology study claims that people have ideas about who they are and what skills they have, so they highlight positive outcomes – but not negative ones – to be consistent with their self-view. Not everyone has a positive self-view; those with low self-esteem are less inclined to show positive self-views. They’re more likely to do the opposite, highlighting the negative over the positive.
In the case mentioned above, Peter had projected a view of the outcome – it went “really well” – that was consistent with his view of himself rather than his actual behaviour as perceived by a third party. He was unable to recognise areas for improvement.
Without self-awareness, your brain kicks into auto-pilot, steered by subconscious beliefs accumulated from years of past programming. The good news is the brain adapts and changes itself as the need arises, which means you can dismantle limiting behaviours and beliefs and rewire your brain for success.
Rewire your brain for self-awareness
In his book Emotional Intelligence, Goleman claims that activating the neocortex of your brain – the the part associated with rational thinking – amplifies your self-awareness. One way of engaging this part of the brain is to meditate (mentioned in this blog post). Strengthening the neocortex boosts your ability to control your emotions and steer thoughts.
A difficult client meeting or a problematic commute can cause negative emotions to simmer beneath your level of awareness, affecting how you interact with people throughout the day. But when you’re aware of your emotions, you have the ability to shrug them off and avoid actions that are inconsistent with your beliefs.
He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened – Lao Tzu