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Building blocks for self-awareness

The invitation to feedback and the act of revealing information to someone is a partnership of trust.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

You know that feeling when someone begins to tell you about yourself, when a churning sensation takes over at the pit of the belly and you brace for the bite of being told something unsavoury about yourself — a physiological response to “What do they really think about me?” Nothing good or bad about this feeling that lingers, as you soften to listen-in to your impact on someone else. A pity that many of us are unfamiliar with this experience of receiving solicited feedback, in the course of living and growing up.

While self-improvement or self-awareness are now familiar individual quests, the inherent role of feedback for holistic acceptance and growth has not gathered steam. There’s another angle to this status quo. While the art of giving feedback is important and intricate on its own, the ability to seek and allow feedback — as insights and building blocks for self-awareness — is not yet an integral part of the self-improvement tool-kit. Please note that feedback, here, refers to constructive feedback from someone with the skill, awareness and intention to do so.

Johari Window

So, let’s begin from there. The idea being expanding our understanding and interpretation of ourselves with the allowance and acceptance of feedback. The Johari Window with its four quadrants of human interaction is an efficient model to illustrate this. Created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, this simple tool is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise to deepen self-awareness and understanding.

Imagine a quadrant with four equal parts — Open, Hidden, Blind and Unknown. As the names suggest, the Blind square refers to our blind spots that we are unaware of but are visible to others. The Hidden square covers all aspects that we hide from others. Simply put, once our intention is to be deeply aware of our beliefs, triggers and patterns of behaviour, we will need to expand the walls of the Open square (self-awareness). This expansion naturally widens into the Hidden or Unknown parts about us, and improve our knowledge of self.

On an individual level, the tool helps people understand what others see in them. We cannot improve what we don’t know and don’t see. Once we decide to change that, we sow the seeds of Trust in the process. At its core, the Johari Window is hinged to trust. The success of this virtual window of opportunity lies in the honesty of an individual’s quest to enhance self-awareness; and their earnestness to understand the self, better. Only from deeper self-knowledge can tangible growth and transformation be set in motion. And once we trust enough to seek feedback, the choice of the person is critical since the invitation to feedback and the act of revealing information to someone, is a partnership of trust.

Equality is important

Yet another prerequisite of a successful feedback loop is for the giver and receiver to feel equal in the process. Feedback is rarely constructive when a person is speaking from a position of superiority to the receiver. An ideal feedback session is collaborative.

If you are the one chosen to offer feedback, be the bearer of responsible observation. Describe what you experienced. Make feedback about sharing what you saw and how it made you feel. Begin with “This is how that came across to me,” or “This is what made me think”. When you relay your reaction in specific detail, you are not judging, giving rating or fixing the person; you’re simply sharing their one-off impact, made in a moment, in an action or behaviour — as experienced by you. And precisely because it isn’t a judgment, it is, at once, more powerful.

The writer is a freelance writer, blogger and life coach. nivedita@ lifealigncoaching.com


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 2:57:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/the-importance-of-feedback/article36535981.ece

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