I have been reading Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box a book about relationships. This is written in the form of a business fable, similar to The Goal, or The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It is an easy read and something you could finish in four or five hours if you wanted.
Similar to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Leadership and Self-Deception is about our relationships and the breakdowns that occur. Specifically it is about our ability to see and understand how our own issues prevent us from being in relationship with others at the same time that those issues perpetuate conflict. While not specifically about emotional intelligence, this book is about understanding ourselves better and improving our relationships.
The thing that struck me most about this book was how it highlighted our ability to deny reality. In order to justify our poor behavior toward others (what the book calls betraying ourselves), we need to make others bad by highlighting their shortcomings and diminishing their good qualities. We attribute negative qualities to them (e.g. she is lazy) or use all or nothing thinking (e.g. he never shows up on time). At the same time, we imagine ourselves to be better than we are and we enhance our own qualities.
The book calls this process self-deception. We deceive ourselves about what is really happening and that becomes a reinforcing cycle that is hard to break.
I think all of us have some sort of denial going on all the time and I believe it to be an important factor on whether we are able to make meaningful change in our lives. If we get honest with ourselves about our current situation, admit that we are falling short or need help, we empower ourselves to make changes. On the other hand, if we stay in denial, we simply find or produce evidence to help us stay right where we are. Awareness is indeed the first step to making meaningful change.
Self-awareness is one of the first building blocks of emotional intelligence. Having an accurate self-assessment is the key to being able to see ourselves as others see us and to have a starting position for any kind of change or improvement. For more on self-awareness, see my earlier posts on self-awareness on this blog or visit my squidoo lens Project Manager's Guide to Emotional Intelligence.
If you want to improve your self-awareness, break through denial, and see yourself as others see you, here is one concrete step you can take today. The Six Seconds EQ Network is offering free use of their SEI-360 emotional intelligence assessment tool for a limited time. This is a great opportunity for you to get a better view of how others see you and your emotional intelligence. You can invite project team members or other project stakeholders to provide you feedback on your emotional intelligence. This would typically cost $200-$300, so getting it for free is pretty nice! (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Six Seconds and get nothing from this referral).
It is vulnerable to open yourself up to feedback and to the truth about how you act and how you are perceived. Paradoxically, this vulnerability strengthens us instead of weakening us. As it says in the bible, "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free". How can you find out more about yourself and your interactions with others? What are the areas of truth that you need to learn about yourself? That truth will empower you to make positive changes in your life.