What Others Know About You

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“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden

Eleven years ago I met my first Life Coach. It was Jane who saw that my blocks and my direction were closely connected. We worked for some time to rediscover my direction. One early exploratory exercise that Jane invited me to pursue was to ask five people to describe me in short words/phrases.

Some time later I realized the purpose and benefit of this exercise. You see, most of us believe we know ourselves better than anyone else. And to measurable extents, this may be true. Yet when those five people replied with candid feedback, I read and learned of strengths that I did not clearly see or embrace.

There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience. Yet there are often attributes/personal gifts/qualities that define us as seen (and known) by others!

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There is comfort in knowing how connected you are to your strengths. When confident in/with your personal gifts, you expand the potential by which you can impact others and effect favorable change. If you find yourself resenting what you’re doing or the way you are living, ask yourself if you are utilizing what you believe are your qualities and what others see in and know about you.

Some times tapping into what others know about you (that you don’t fully see) can awaken you to reconnect with a dream, with your heart or perhaps, with a new calling. New self-awareness may even inspire you to let go of what you perceive(d) as a strength, once you’ve adopted an even more valuable virtue(s).

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If the prospect of learning how others see you intrigues, I invite you to consider the exercise I embarked upon eleven years ago. It was revealing and the insight that was shared helped me to consider a new direction (and a more passionate focus!), simply because I sought candid input from people who knew me as well as I believed I knew myself.

Naming your personal gifts is unusual but the more exact the better. It is important in asking for words and phrases (not sentences) from respondents that they be honest, positively and negatively. The preliminary steps:

  1. Choose four people from among immediate family members, a close friend(s), former schoolmate, partner, spouse, colleague, supervisor (past of present). Aim for a mix from among all of these. The fifth source of input is yourself.
  2. Ask each of them (and yourself) to “Describe me as you know me,” “Describe me as you see me,” and/or “Describe me as you remember me.”
  3. Your lists will contain lots of words and phrases. When you have all of them, print (don’t type) them on a table.
  4. If/when you get this far and want to know what follows, let me know; I’ll craft a follow-on post. This involves some time and work. Yet the results can be quite telling. πŸ™‚

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Credit: Child playing piano / M-IMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

47 thoughts on “What Others Know About You

  1. A wonderful exercise to do Eric. I think we would all underestimate what others see that we don’t. I agree when we know and believe in our own strengths we can make a clear path and strong impact on others and life.

    • Too often, Hariod, people I have introduced this exercise to sense dread. πŸ™‚ In most cases, what they have received as a result of asking is favorably validating feedback – some known, some new. Encourage honest input!

      • Understood, Eric, although I was obliquely questioning the likelihood of whether “respondents [would be] be honest, positively and negatively.” Would you not say the bias would lean towards accentuating the positive? Of course, that would still prove useful to a number in any case, as many hide their light under a bushel. πŸ™‚

      • Indeed, Hariod, in my experience the bias leans toward accentuating the positive. Even when respondents are invited/asked to be honest, human nature (kindness?) prevails and people simply don’t comfortably ‘go there.’

  2. Interesting exercise, Eric. It can be a bit scary to hear other people describe us, but a good way to improve, move forward. We can also imply form their actions toward us, their words to us, where we stand. Working on the self is a lifelong exercise, isn’t it? Keep adjusting, keep doing our best.

    • It is indeed a lifelong exercise, Silvia. How can/do we grow if we are unwilling or disinterested in receiving candid feedback from others? Quite often, it is that very input that (to your comment) improves and moves us forward. Glad you found it interesting.

    • Beam on, Audrey! I am already blinded by the illumination of your undertaking the exercise and the brilliant feedback it will yield for you. My pleasure to share. Most appreciative of your thoughtful sentiment.

  3. Great points, Eric! Unsolicited response about you: You’re a kind person, with thoughtful insights and your words are consistently encouraging and edifying. Have a good one, my friend.

  4. I have engaged in this meaningful activity, Eric. It does help to know where your strengths lie and to help guide you into a journey towards your life’s pathway yet to be. . .

    • And I bet it was an enlightening and enjoyable experience, Robin. Too often, people tend to focus on their weaknesses and get mired in what’s not right or not working when they typically have an abundance of strengths. Appreciate your kind, personal comment.

  5. Thank you for another informative website. Where else could I am getting that type of info written in such a perfect way? I have a venture that I am simply now working on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such information.|

    • Thank you, BTG, for creating time to read the post and comment. I’m unsure about your “perfect” assessment though this blog endeavors to inform and inspire. Good luck with you venture!

  6. Clever exercise. I’d feel awkward that it might get brutally honest. πŸ˜€ I think it might be smarter to ask for both positive and negative, because some people might not be too blunt to criticize. Just a thought.

    • Rommel, the intent *is* to get brutally honest feedback. πŸ™‚ It is in the blend of positive and negative that we can sift through and take forward what others see and share – that is of value to us. And this is what I encourage participants to ask for. I suspect you have some thick skin.

  7. Thank you for reminding me of one shining moment when learned a truth about myself from another – and it was at a dreaded professional performance review. I saw that the first word my boss had written under “Strengths” was Passion and the first word he’d written under “Challenges” was Passion. I never felt more understood, respected, or appreciated in my career than when I reported to that man. Your exercise sounds like a marvelous thing.

    • You are welcome. If we simply remain open to honest feedback, it can be pleasantly revealing. It sounds as though you had just such an experience. πŸ™‚ Being passionate is beautiful so kudos to you for having it in both ‘columns.’

  8. Very interesting exercise. Now I am curious of what follows πŸ™‚ I’d like to try this and if I do, I hope that people will be honest and not nice πŸ™‚

    • That is the same outcome I wanted, Helen – honest, not anything sugar coated. Many of us grow as our self-awareness is expanded. And this is an interesting tool to glean views about ourselves through the lenses of others. The trick becomes: do we do anything with the feedback we receive? πŸ™‚

  9. Reblogged this on Running with Buddha and commented:
    “There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience.” I chewed these words over and over. Because they are so true! Our blind spots are exactly that, things we can’t see about ourselves.

    While I was still working, I used an instrument called 360 degree feedback. The idea is similar to what Eric suggested, get feedback from your peers, boss, subordinate and yourself. Comparison of the results was very revealing.

    • I appreciate your creating time to read and comment on the post, Terry. Thank you, as well, for choosing to reblog it. I have used 360 degree assessments in my work. They are a unique tool, especially if recipients find constructive and productive ways in which to weave the feedback into their own (often narrow or limited) perspectives. I, too, found the results revealing the first few times I was invited to participate in 360 degree reviews.

  10. So true! I’ve had this experience of others telling me how they see me, and it is often quite different from how I see myself. But in a really good way haha. The same themes have been coming up, from different people, for years and years – so I think they’re on to something. πŸ˜‰ Thanks, Aleya

    • It seems similar to those inner voices that keep whispering to us – if we pause to truly listen to what others tell us about ourselves, the message (and learning) can be equal parts inspiring and rewarding. Indeed, those other people *are* on to something… most likely worth heeding. πŸ™‚ Here’s to whatever encouraging words they are sharing with you.

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