Working inside out

Just as charity begins at home, so do career and social success — look inwards first

Published - November 05, 2017 05:00 pm IST

Illustration for Edge

Illustration for Edge

Vani didn’t feel comfortable going out with her friends though she was part of the coolest group. Though she didn’t really want to drink, she succumbed to peer pressure each time. After all, who wanted to be the only “party-pooper”? While she could have easily befriended other students, Vani found herself growing more aloof from those who weren’t in the pub-hopping circle.

Unlike Vani, Viraj felt sure of himself. With excellent academic credentials, he was confident of rising in the workplace. But much to his chagrin, his boss gave him a very lukewarm appraisal. Viraj simply attributed this to bad luck and changed jobs. However, even in the new company, Viraj was being sidelined. What Viraj didn’t realise is that he often came across as rude and arrogant to his colleagues, who were finding it increasingly difficult to work with him.

Being yourself

Though Vani and Viraj appear different, they both lack self-awareness, an essential ingredient of emotional intelligence, according to best-selling author Daniel Goleman. Self-awareness involves being aware of one’s feelings and thoughts and knowing how they can influence each other at all times. What Vani doesn’t realise is that there is a disconnect within her. While she thinks she is ‘cool’ for hanging out with the drinking crowd, she doesn’t feel like she is herself when in a pub. Once she becomes conscious of this internal pull within her, she may be able to fend off the peer pressure by asserting who she really is.

Likewise, if Viraj pays attention to how he sounds, he might find that his tone is cocky. Though he doesn’t explicitly tell his colleagues that he is smarter than them, his attitude is condescending. What Viraj needs to do is observe himself. Only then will he realise that he is not a great team player.

The first step to gain more self-awareness is to observe yourself as an outsider would. As Goleman writes in Emotional Intelligence , self-observation involves “a slight stepping-back from experience.” So, if you find yourself getting drawn into a heated argument, you may tell yourself, “I am feeling hot and flustered.” Only by recognising the change in yourself, can you then monitor your response.

The next step involves labelling your feeling. Once you realise that you are indeed angry, then you can tame the anger. Instead of allowing the emotion to engulf you, your ability to take charge of it increases.

But self-awareness is not only about monitoring our ever-fleeting emotions. It also includes reflecting on ourselves, our core values and deepest desires. Writer and coach Brad Stulberg writes in The New York Times (August 22 2017), that self-awareness involves, “the ability to see yourself clearly by assessing, monitoring and proactively managing your core values, emotions, passions, behaviours and impact on others.” As we often encounter conflicting demands, we need to then give ourselves time to evaluate how various pulls and tugs will affect us.

He also coaxes us to “constantly check in” with ourselves as our needs and wishes change over time. We need to listen to our bodies, feelings and thoughts, and evaluate whether our day to day lives are aligned with the visions we have for ourselves. Setting aside some downtime on a regular basis to assess our actions, goals and priorities can help us lead lives that are more in tune with our inner selves.

The author is Director, PRAYATNA.

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