Updated: Jul 13, 2021
When I teach soft skills, I always start with awareness. I see this as the foundational soft skill that allows you to access all the others. When I'm teaching, I put awareness into two camps: Internal and external awareness.
I define internal awareness as, "Examining our emotions, getting clarity on our values, and questioning our beliefs so that we have a deeper understanding of ourselves." Internal awareness allows us to process information we receive and be present in how we respond. Those with high self awareness tend to have fewer emotional outbursts, remain calm during conflict, and practice patience and forgiveness of themselves and others.
External awareness is about observing how others respond to situations, our words, or actions. External awareness gives us valuable information about how our behaviors impact others. When we are actively engaged in observation we gain insight into what provokes our colleagues to be frustrated, at ease, stressed, joyful, or sad. This skill gives us the ability to inquire, gain clarity, offer assistance, resolve conflict, or offer support.
But while the concepts of internal and external awareness may seem obvious to many, putting this skill into practice can be a real challenge. After observing behavior in clients when coaching or leading workshops, I now believe that the biggest challenge in harnessing the power of awareness are two soft skills that immediately surface when we step into awareness. These two soft skills are probably the two most difficult to confront for most people. They're the soft skills accountability and adaptability.
Multiple studies have shown that our brains actually AVOID these two soft skills unless they are directly linked to our survival... like if you have a fear of water but you're being chased by a wild animal and the only way to safety is to run across a river, then our minds our like, "Ok, time to get over the water thing." But without life threatening pressure, our minds are less interested in changing or owning responsibilities.
Accountability is hard for our brain because this often requires us to put our egos in the back seat (or if we have a loud ego - the trunk, where I have to put mine from time to time), and that's the last place our ego's like to be. Accountability can produce some heavy emotions if we don't have the psychological support to give us compassion and reassurance that we'll still find belonging and acceptance after we become accountable. It's difficult to account for things we did that caused damage to situations, ourselves, or others because our brains are hard wired to avoid discomfort.
How often have you stepped into awareness only to find yourself, running in the opposite direction the secon