Self-awareness allows us to recognize inflexible ideas that label other people as complex, irrational, unreasonable, etc.
Most of the time, we are unaware of where our judgments stem from, but increasing our awareness consistently helps us differentiate between subconscious programming and conscious discernment about a person or situation.
A new study from the Journal of Neuroscience sheds light on how our brains judge other people very fast without knowing who they really are. When we label our bosses as demanding, difficult, or unreasonable, what do we mean?
If you believe you have a demanding, difficult boss, ask yourself what you mean by those terms. You see, there is so much we are not aware of because we mostly live on autopilot, but the moment we pause and reflect, we can discover and recognize our subconscious programs—habits, patterns, beliefs—that take the form of judgments about ourselves and others.
I used to live on autopilot, and the moment I started practicing self-awareness and self-reflection, I began to recognize patterns, habits, and beliefs that were interfering daily with my ability to discern perception from reality. Our overly reactive minds give us information based on past experiences. As Tara Brach explains, “Beneath our judgments, there is often some form of pain, whether strong or subtle, that feels somehow protected when it can hide behind the veil of judgment. Our beliefs about a particular person, situation, or experience are strongly rooted in our personal biases and ideas about the world; they are beliefs that have been strengthened through years of conditioning.”
Most of the time, we are unaware of where our judgments stem from, but increasing our awareness consistently helps us differentiate between subconscious programming and conscious discernment about a person or situation. Self-awareness allows us to recognize inflexible ideas that label other people as complex, irrational, unreasonable, etc.
I get it! There was a time in my life when I used to allow myself to believe that my demanding boss, friend, client, or family member made my life miserable because my level of awareness was limited, but I got to a point where I was not willing to keep playing the victim anymore. If we are honest with ourselves, we often inadvertently take on a role that we get stuck in until we make a choice that reminds us of our inner power.
When I started developing self-awareness daily, I began to regain the ability to gather my thoughts, feel safe communicating, ask my “difficult boss” questions, and gain clarity and perspective. I started to practice not going to the victim role by developing the ability to observe myself when I got triggered, and instead of allowing the thought, “this is ridiculous!” asking myself, “what does she want?”
Instead of assuming that my boss is an unreasonable person, I started to use the phrase, “I understand that you want me to…” (fill in the blank). I asked her questions like, “is this correct?” Or, I used phrases like, “we are on the same page to create common ground.” When I used these statements, I realized that they gave me leeway to explain something that otherwise she would not allow me to elaborate on.
According to researchers, people in leadership positions might be unaware that they do not generally convey their message clearly, and this inability to see themselves makes them difficult, unreasonable and demanding. Self-talk is a powerful tool that helps us develop the ability to ask ourselves, and others, questions instead of assuming we know who the other person is and what they want. When we ask ourselves and others questions, we break free of survival mode, and instead, we can transcend it.
Developing the ability to tolerate distress can help us deal more effectively with “difficult people.” We can learn to manage others’ behaviors more effectively when we recognize what is personal and what we are taking personally, what is under our control and what is not. We cannot change our boss’s behavior, but we can change how we handle it. If you feel that you are ready to develop, practice, and cultivate self-awareness, you might want to consider 1 Minute of Self-Reflection, a tool based on emotional intelligence, neuroscience, and mindfulness that I have developed, and which has helped over 300 people create the habit of self-reflection.