Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke

Via on Jan 26, 2011
Photo Courtesy Guian Bolisay

“Actions have consequences…first rule of life. And the second rule is this: You are the
only one responsible for your own actions.”
~ Holly Lisle

In all the practices we employ to develop virtue, to become a good person, to me there is none more important than the practice and development of self-awareness.

Photo Courtesy Ed Yourdon

We’ve all been in the usual situations. Perhaps you’re sharing a conversation with someone. The person stops their point and you start to give yours and just as you begin, their phone rings and instead of letting it ring out to continue listening to what you have to say, they interrupt the conversation to answer the call, leaving you hanging for several minutes or longer. Another example might be when you’re talking to someone and they’re not paying attention to you at all; they simply offer “uh huh’s” and “oh sure’s” while they check their phones or type on their keyboard or begin talking to someone else, again, leaving you hanging.

There are numerous scenarios where we all have fallen guilty of being so self-absorbed to the point where we don’t realise how our actions are affecting the other person. Our lack of self-awareness can leave us seemingly detached and completely unaware of how others may be reacting to us. We fail to pick up any vibes or sense of irritation or awkwardness and even if a companion is bold enough to point out our ignorance, we often feel irritated ourselves. The irony of our lack of self-awareness is when we retort with an indignant response: “Don’t be silly – I’d never be that way!”

The reason why I think self-awareness is the most important quality to develop above all else is purely because without it, we have no idea of our flaws to begin with. One might give the opinion that compassion is the most important quality – but the only way to develop compassion is by first being aware of the need to develop it.

Unlike compassion, patience or kindness, a lack of self-awareness is much trickier to point out to someone. We can easily provide examples of when a friend has been impatient or unkind or indifferent and if they have a degree of self-awareness, they most probably will realize their error and look out for it in future. However, to point out a lack of self-awareness is difficult, due to the obvious point that they most likely won’t be aware of the issue, hence when we try to point this out verbally, we get the response: “Don’t be silly – I’d never be that way.

Photo Courtesy Leah Jones / Comic by John Campbell

No doubt we all know of someone who is self-absorbed to the point of disbelief and it can be really frustrating when dealing with this kind of person. Over the years, I’ve found an effective way of dealing with this is to mirror that person’s behaviour. So, for example, if during conversations with them they are often multi-tasking and not really listening to what you have to say, the next time you converse with them, you do the same. By coming across as indifferent, unenthusiastic and aloof, someone who is unaware of how their interacting affects others around them will receive a taste of their own medicine. It’s funny just how aware people can suddenly become when they aren’t receiving the expected attention…

Of course, this alone won’t address the problem of their lack of self-awareness. Most likely, they’ll simply feel frustrated, but if you then point out that you’ve simply shown them how they act a lot of the time, generally it will sink in so much better than if you just tell them they’re being aloof or unaware. The reason this works is because the other person is forced to feel how they sometimes make others feel and because it’s quite an unpleasant feeling, the point stands a better chance of sinking in, allowing for the opportunity of developing self-awareness.

People who are unaware will almost always point out if you’re being aloof towards them, simply because people who lack self-awareness are usually a touch more selfish than those who possess self-awareness. When you juggle three different tasks while talking to someone who lacks self-awareness, they will say something like: “You aren’t you listening to me! Aren’t I more important than your doodling/phone/Facebook updates?”

If we can develop self-awareness, we are able to attune ourselves to the feelings of others and pick up vibes quickly and change our behaviour accordingly. People who are self-aware tend to be more inclusive and will make those around them feel just as important – if not more so – than themselves and those around them will feel a genuine sense of interest coming from the other direction in what they have to say.

Self-awareness is something that, spiritually, helps to increase mindfulness tremendously. In our every day living, it not only helps to refine our good manners, but it is also a powerful communication tool that can be used to our advantage: anyone who possesses a strong sense of self-awareness is always focused and tuned in to what’s going on. In its development, we gain a valuable quality that becomes indispensable because when we are constantly aware of the feelings of those around us and when we make the effort to be inclusive, we find we are often rewarded tenfold – and all for the endeavor of simply paying more attention to our actions and behavior.

______________________________________________________________________________________________


Sandy Clarke
is a 27-year old journalist and writer from Scotland, UK. Having worked for the Scottish Parliament and various newspaper titles, Clarke has a keen interest in current affairs and global politics and as a practicing Buddhist, he also devotes a lot of time to spirituality.

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8 Responses to “Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by elephantjournal.com and Red Fox, elephantjournal.com. elephantjournal.com said: get off your phone and read this!! (unless you're reading this on your phone…) http://tinyurl.com/4th4hjm #elej #sridtmc [...]

  2. yogiclarebear says:

    Thanks for writing about the positive side of self-awareness. There are many positive facets that can be hard to see while going through a “self awareness” cycle where all you can see is the yuck that you need to change. There are many times that I throw my hands up and wish ignorance because I feel like the flaws are too bad to fix. It is too hard and too ugly and I go through the self hate but eventually find the compassion and the cycle continues. I'm not sure that fixing someone else's awareness is a position I should put myself in, but with the people I love, I will be honest if they have unaware tendencies that are affecting me in a negative way.

    Anyways, thanks for your post. You make some great observations that really vibe with me.

  3. [...] Our kids know that we’re ignoring them when we call someone on the cell phone after telling them we’d take them to the park Image by Ed Yourdon Note: this photo was published in a Jun 9, 2010 Technologeek blog, with the same title that I used on this Flickr page. It was also published in a Jan 26, 2011 blog titled "Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke." [...]

  4. [...] Our kids know that we’re ignoring them when we call someone on the cell phone after telling them we’d take them to the park Image by Ed Yourdon Note: this photo was published in a Jun 9, 2010 Technologeek blog, with the same title that I used on this Flickr page. It was also published in a Jan 26, 2011 blog titled "Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke." [...]

  5. [...] of balance. With a nasty personal relapse again this year, I see that this cycle is broadening my awareness, and the disciplines are bringing knowledge, but still…it’s a cycle, and I’m stuck in [...]

  6. [...] Our kids know that we’re ignoring them when we call someone on the cell phone after telling them we’d take them to the park Image by Ed Yourdon Note: this photo was published in a Jun 9, 2010 Technologeek blog, with the same title that I used on this Flickr page. It was also published in a Jan 26, 2011 blog titled "Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke." [...]

  7. [...] Note: this photo was published in a Jun 9, 2010 Technologeek blog, with the same title that I used on this Flickr page. It was also published in a Jan 26, 2011 blog titled "Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke." [...]

  8. [...] Our kids know that we’re ignoring them when we call someone on the cell phone after telling them we’d take them to the park Image by Ed Yourdon Note: this photo was published in a Jun 9, 2010 Technologeek blog, with the same title that I used on this Flickr page. It was also published in a Jan 26, 2011 blog titled "Hey, Don’t Be ‘Ignore’ant: or, The Rewards Of Self-Awareness. ~Sandy Clarke." [...]

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