Why Self-Awareness is Important in Conversations

Ever meet those people who seem to just know when to say in situation that makes you feel heard? Who have this mysterious ability to always carry themselves with confidence and composure?

An important ingredient that all great communicators have is self-awareness.  Being self-aware means being ‘in tune’ with your inner workings. It involves first going inward and reflecting on what you want from a particular person or conversation.

There are two strategies that can help you become more self-aware within a conversation.

1. Go inward

Going inward can involve journaling; going for a walk; or doing some yard work. Whatever the task, take some time to move into a different head space and reflect on what message you want to send and what outcome you hope to gain from the conversation. Two questions to get you started:

What do I need or want from this person in the future? 

What outcome am I looking for in this situation? 

We often think of self-awareness in terms of being oriented towards ourselves. While this is true, self-awareness also includes an ability to be ‘other-oriented.’

You notice how others are receiving and responding to you and your messages. You can approach others with openness and a non-judgmental attitude because you have the mental and emotional space to be more receptive.

And when we are more receptive to others, they in turn are more receptive to us. Conversations flow better. Everyone feels heard. So the next point touches on that…making sure everyone within a conversation is heard.

2. Estimate airtime

Raising your level of self-awareness within a conversation involves being attentive to the amount of airtime that you and others are using.

It is widely known that extroverts are more outgoing in social situations than introverts. And that is okay. Estimating airtime doesn’t mean changing your basic personality traits, it means expanding your level of awareness to how your communication style is being perceived within a particular situation.

It’s about observing ourselves and others within a situation and regulating our selves accordingly. 

For example, if we tend towards extroversion, it may mean observing when we’re talking over people or continuously chatting without pause.  For those of us who are introverts, it may mean venturing our thoughts and opinions despite feeling uncomfortable or nervous.

Communicating effectively means our thoughts and feelings are clearly shared, AND the we leave space in the conversation for others to share their thoughts and feelings.  There is a mutually beneficial exchange of information.

A few questions to think about when estimating airtime in conversations:

Reflect on one conversation you have in the upcoming week and ask yourself: how much airtime am I taking? 20%? 60%? 

In the same week, reflect on another conversation with a different person in a different situation. Ask yourself again: 20%? 60%?

Developing greater self-awareness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process of learning and asking yourself deeper questions. Going inward and estimating airtime can help you practice greater self-awareness in your next conversation.  

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