How to expand your awareness.

Become self-aware, thoughts on Personality and Intelligence

We are born with a unique genetic make-up (consider it a ‘gift from our parents’), different to anyone else's on the planet.  Our DNA, brainpower, fingerprints, tongue print, the way we walk and talk, whether we like to draw or play sport and many other traits are all gifts which are unique to us.

One of the gifts we inherit is our intelligence (also called IQ or intelligence quotient – a term coined by German scientist William Stern) which is measured by a score derived from a number of standardized tests designed to assess human intelligence.

IQ tests compare your intellectual performance with other people of your age.

IQ tests compare your intellectual performance with other people of your age who take the same test.  You could think of the IQ score as similar to the ATAR results given to School-leavers which allow them to access University degrees but which do not tell us how well-adjusted or emotionally intelligent they are.

IQ seems to remain more or less stable throughout our lives although improvements have been noted in each generation due to nutrition, education and other factors.  This means you can improve or sharpen it to some degree.

However, IQ tests don’t measure all kinds of intelligence such as social or emotional intelligence or even spatial, musical or kinaesthetic intelligence, each one of which we possess to a certain degree.  (For more information read Howard Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligence” theory).

Some of us go out of our way to improve our intelligence because it can be improved and go on to attain better academic results.

While we have inherited a certain level of IQ, this does not depend on race, ethnicity, gender, class or other variables, despite views from a couple of centuries ago which compared brain functions of men and women (saying one was less than the other) and also racially stereotyped levels of intelligence.

Research has since shown that men and women share the same level of cognitive or intellectual skills and that there is no essential difference in intelligence between people of all races.

We begin to add to our genetic traits from the day we are born.

However, we begin to add to our genetic traits from the day we are born as we start learning – how to talk, assemble toys, new skills for school, sports and work, and later parenting skills and so on.

As we experience new things daily we start to like some and dislike others. Some of us begin to like walking in the sand, others develop a love of ice-cream, or rides in fast cars, or making music.  We also find we take to some types of learning – academic, sport or skill-based – easily and others of us find a certain type of learning hard work.

During this time of learning, experiencing and experimentation, we are beginning to develop our own personality.

According to some psychologists, our personalities are almost formed by the time we are two or three years of age.  Our parents, teachers, friends and family members give us a lot of feedback on our personality, skills and behaviours.

It seems obvious to them that we have certain ways of behaving and acting in this world.  We ourselves may not be conscious of it but others observe big parts of our personality (e.g. outgoing, shy, introverted, practical, creative, analytical, and so on).

By the time we are adults (in our 20’s), we discover we have a huge range of skills, knowledge, experiences and additionally, a unique personality, which pulls us toward some skills, behaviours, occupations, interests and people and sometimes pushes us away from other skills, behaviours, occupations, actions and beliefs.

Yet most of us are not fully acquainted with our own personalities.

We have glimmerings of what we like or dislike and we seem to be stumbling on these by accident at times.  It is when we want to get into a certain career or get into work, that the matter of personality and personality-fit to an occupation or job-role becomes more important. For this reason,  I will focus on in this article our adult personalities – those which our colleagues see at work.

Many companies use their Induction & Orientation program (sometimes even in the Recruitment stage) and later during Training and Development workshops, to lead us through personality quizzes and give us an overview of how we behave and what our main traits and qualities are.

Dependent on the needs of the workplace and job itself and sometimes, the personal traits exhibited by people, workers may be sent for further training and development programs to build new and better skills.

Some of the personality quizzes or profiles used are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Team Management System (TMS) profile, DISC system, the 16 Personality Factor (16PF).  (More about these later.)

Why do corporations do the personality profiling and then share the outcomes with you?

Belief amongst the Psychologists and Human Resource-Training  community is:  if you understand your unique personality traits and what makes you that unique individual, then you will know yourself better i.e. what motivates you, what energises you, what you instinctively believe in, how you react under certain circumstances e.g. emotional, psychological, physical  and/or stress-related.

Corporate motivation to help us become self-aware comes down to ‘helping people become self-aware helps them improve their personal performance!’

Don’t be ultra-suspicious of corporate motives because building self-awareness helps us to iron out personality ‘glitches’, if any, round out any ‘traits' which are obvious to others but not to ourselves (blind spots) and become more aware of our colleagues’ personalities so that we can operate in a more team-like, collegiate way.

Some companies not only profile your personality but also your IQ.(Intelligence Quotient)

Some companies not only profile your personality but also your IQ.(Intelligence Quotient) and in some cases your work-related skills.  IQ is sometimes measured either through Mensa type tests and also testing your Verbal Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, Mathematical, Logical and Spatial Reasoning skills.

This is because these corporations believe that a successful Manager, Consultant or Team member needs to have certain levels of these skills.

However, intelligence is a “construct that includes problem-solving abilities, spatial manipulation and language acquisition”, which means the tests tell us how well our intellect works but that does not cover everything. The fact that you can do algebra and calculus, speak five languages and can store a lot of information in your memory is wonderful but it does not help us win friends and influence people!

IQ and technical skills will only go so far.

It is similar to using the ATAR School points to allow you to get into a University study course – so you become a doctor but have no kindness, warmth or bedside manner!

New research now shows that personality traits account for less than 20% of the ups and downs of work performance.  While many of us become aware of our personalities because of the feedback given by family members and close friends, our personalities are almost fully formed by the time we are two or three years old (and then, a small window of formation around puberty).

So the most we can do to mitigate or improve our personalities is to remain aware of our ‘strengths and weaknesses’ (often euphemistically called our development needs) and soften or buffer them as we become more mature, more aware of the effect it has on others and in achieving our own aims in life.

In terms of leadership roles – supervisor, manager, team-leader, CEO – the personality and the intelligence factors which go with getting into a role and performing well become more important.

On a day-to-day basis, we make decisions…

On a day-to-day basis, we make decisions (instinctively) but much of that is tied to our personality (whether we are cautious or charge in without working out the consequences; whether we plan each step of the way or race in and stumble along working out the steps as we go forward, to give a few examples).

Personality tests like the MBTI, TMS or 16PF can give us a thumbnail sketch of how we make decisions and what our natural personality profile tends to be.

Often we don’t understand why we make decisions the way we do because the rationale is embedded deep in our brain and psyche due to learned behaviour, childhood and growing up experiences, deep socialisation (or teaching of our parents, culture, society/community).

The processes of why and how we do certain things are very complex.

The processes of why and how we do certain things are very complex and each person will need a lot of coaching, counselling and analysis to understand why he/she made the decision the way they did and why they selected some facts and not others.

So while I am going to stick to the example of work teams and the personality we show in our work-groups.  To be clear, personality is not one dimensional; we don’t exhibit the same uni-dimensional personality to everyone we know from parent or spouse to the barista near work.

We show different aspects of ourselves at various times.

We show different aspects of ourselves at various times and also different strengths of the same personality trait in varying groups and settings.

To illustrate: if we have an extraverted personality and love to make jokes and party on, this will be more prominent in a family or group of friends than at work (and perhaps get more exaggerated after a few drinks).

I am sure many of you have experienced that different people and personalities in a group can set us off to show different parts of our personality.  Which means we may take up one or more role/s in group settings.

Knight in shining armour.

For example, you may be an extraverted person and be the joker of the family/group of friends, however, if you see someone being harassed or bullied at work or on the train, it may fire up the Knight in shining armour within you or the Rescuer of small things.

These are all part of you and your personality, not seen all the time but the traits show themselves in different settings. (Does it have to do with our values – which is another part of us or tap into our experiences as a small child when we were bullied?)

In other cases, you could take on a task-related role in a group, because of your own expertise or your past experiences or thinking on the matter.  You could find yourself taking on the role of an expert or judge or devil’s advocate or creator or note-taker (see Edward de Bono’s book – Six Thinking Hats).

At other times we take on various socio-emotional roles in a work group – encourager, peacemaker, tension-reliever (joker), confronter, recognition-seeker, victim, blocker, distractor, aggressor, persecutor, victim, rescuer and so on.

Many of these roles are unconscious.

Many of these roles are unconscious but may have their roots in our past experiences – child to adult.  Whether these roles are conscious or unconscious, the people playing these roles are communicating feelings, values, and opinions about the task and the wider world outside the group

I have touched on matters re personality and examining our personal behaviour in this article

Recent research shows that people seeking or wanting greater self-awareness are considered to have good emotional intelligence (EQ) which leads to a ‘smartness’ beyond IQ.

The former (emotional intelligence or EQ) is very pertinent here if we wish to understand ourselves and also be successful in life – in dealing with people in personal and public life.  (It becomes particularly important for leadership roles and building cohesive teams in organisations or if the person chooses to go into public e.g. political life and in personal life, it is supremely beneficial if we wish to become better parents and friends.)

These days EQ has been separated into two skillsets – Emotional Awareness and Social Awareness – which together are referred to ESI.

The four main skill-sets of Emotional Intelligence.

The four main skill-sets of Emotional Intelligence are grouped as Emotional Self-Awareness; Self-Management which includes Emotional Self-Control, Achievement Orientation, Positive Outlook and Adaptability; Social Awareness which includes Empathy and Organisational Awareness; and Relationship Management which includes Influencing, Coaching & Mentoring, Conflict Management, Inspirational Leadership and Teamwork.

Goleman and Boyatzis developed an Emotional & Social Competency Inventory framework (ESCI) which uses 360 degree rating to measure these skills by asking the person to (1) rate themselves and (2) asking people whom the person trusts and values to rate them.  (This instrument is different to the MBTI, TMS, DISC and 16 PF Personality instruments mentioned above which are all self-rated – you fill in a questionnaire based on what you think you do under various circumstances and faced with various situations.)

Emotional and Social competencies are learned skills.

These Emotional and Social competencies are learned skills and contribute not only to higher performance at work and in personal life but also to greater life satisfaction.

Daniel Goleman (‘Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’) was the first psychologist to write of this particular skill-set.  He observed and highlighted the skills that were seen in outstanding leaders and went on to generalise that these skills were found in socially and emotionally well-adjusted and successful people.  Daniel Goleman then worked with Prof. Richard Boyatzis to highlight the crucial need for self-awareness, something that psychologists and psychotherapists had recommended and striven to awaken in their clients.

Some ways that people can develop their EQ and SQ:

  • Improve your listening skills.  This means Active listening or paying close attention to what is being said (without interrupting or passing judgement), having appropriate body language so that the person speaking sees and hears your attention at all levels. As they finish, give them feedback by paraphrasing their message, clarifying points they have made, reflecting back on what they have said (this means you want me to ..) and finally thanking them for having trusted you with their thoughts and feedback.  Be generous with your time and give people the opportunity to confide in you.
  • Learn to express emotions productively. Research suggests that good leaders should “learn to identify and label emotions’ so that all can recognise when they are present and can better deal with them. For example, a leader may say ‘I am sad to hear that these views are current in the workplace’ or ‘I feel angry that some people are blaming Joe for speaking up’. Emotions comprise fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, shame, envy, hatred, love, kindness and many others which may be shades of basic emotions.
  • Invite your family and close friends to give you feedback on how they observe and experience your behaviour. Reflect on how that behaviour ties in with your values, personality traits, actions and how you want to and do live your life.
  • Take time to understand how and why you make decisions. Some personality tests such as the MBTI, TMS and 16PF can be helpful in this regard.  Keeping a journal of important testing points and crucial decision-making junctures can also be helpful, particularly the facts and beliefs that led you to make a decision.

Much of what we have discussed above is aimed at bringing people into a state of self-awareness.

Goleman (in his work on EQ) also came to the conclusion that people who were emotionally aware, showed appropriate emotion in social situations (early childhood onwards) and could regulate emotions appropriately went on to become leaders and successful people.

This is good news for those of us who are learning to be more self-aware.

(According to Social Science theory, “Self-awareness is the capacity to take oneself as the object of thought—people can think, act, and experience, and they can also think about what they are thinking, doing, and experiencing…  self-awareness theory is traced to Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund’s (1972) landmark theory of self-awareness… (they) proposed that, at a given moment, people can focus attention on the self or on the external environment.

Focusing on the self enables self-evaluation. When self-focused, people compare the self with standards of correctness that specify how the self ought to think, feel, and behave. The process of comparing the self with standards allows people to change their behaviour and to experience pride and dissatisfaction with the self.  Self-awareness is thus a major mechanism of self-control…. many experiments have shown that when people are not self-focused, their actions are often unrelated to their personal standards—self-awareness is needed for people to reduce disparities between their actions and their ideals.”)

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