What Are Your Blind Spots?
I had a great response to my last blog, Blind Faith, where I detailed my adventures as a blind woman. It led me to think about the fact that everyone has their own “blind spots” of one sort or another. There has actually been significant research conducted regarding this topic in the business world. But in the therapy world, we usually call these blind spots “defenses,” and we believe that identifying them can be the key to helping someone improve their personal relationships.
According to author Claudia M. Shelton, “blind spots” are patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that we often do unconsciously, potentially negatively influencing our relationships with others. As a counselor, I call these “blind spots” defenses. More simply, unconscious things we do that drive others crazy. Blind Spots can become possible problems in our working processes and relationships, and if left unchecked, can become serious obstacles to our effectiveness and progress, especially in the way we relate to others. Adolescents can easily point out the blind spots of both parents. Spouses know their partners’ blind spots intimately. What we may think people don’t notice about ourselves is usually common knowledge to those around us.
Some Truths About blind Spots
- Every personal strength when overused has the potential of becoming a personal weakness.
- Every personal weakness when developed has the potential to become a personal strength.
- The environment we are in may influence seeing a personal characteristic as a strength or weakness.
- Different people may regard what we believe are our strengths and weaknesses very differently from how we do.
How Does Being Unaware Hurt Us?
Being unaware of a blind spot is like carrying a time bomb. Others see our blind spot but back away when we give signals that we don’t want to hear about it. Some try to tell us that we’re doing something that bothers them, but we ignore it or become defensive. Sooner or later though, these blind spot defenses can harm relationships or prevent us from connecting well with friends, family, and co-workers.
What Are the Most Common Blind Spots?
- Misused Strengths – These are strengths used too little or too much, or even used ineffectively. When I took a look at myself, I realized that some of my own core strengths could be interpreted in a negative way if I overuse them. For instance, in the work place, I often resort to humor as it comes natural to me. But if I overuse this gift, I risk colleagues perceiving me as someone who doesn’t take anything seriously. So I’m aware of how frequently I use humor, and when it’s the right setting. I challenge you to peer into yourself…are you someone who is laid back and doesn’t get ruffled easily? Certainly that’d be a strength, as you are able to “brush it off” and not let little things alter your attitude. But do your friends view you as a doormat? Are you easily taken advantage of? Or maybe you are quite structured and organized? Great! But to the point that it’s hard for you to allow in creativity or incorporate in the ideas of others? Are people to nervous to ask you for help because they know you don’t like to alter from your daily routine and schedule?
- Old Habits – This entails relying on behaviors that made you successful in the past that would no longer be effective. These are the most difficult to uncover because they are ways of thinking and acting that have become fixed and routine for you. Maybe you showed your love to your ex via acts of service – running their errands, taking out the trash, and ironing their clothes. But the new object of your affection just wants quality time with you and couldn’t care less about whether or not you did their laundry. Step back and evaluate what some of the engrained habits of yours might be. Maybe that route worked in the past for some time period; now you must reevaluate and alter the way you express your love, respond to your colleagues, treat your friends…whatever it might be.
- Stress Expressed – How do we negatively express the stress we feel? How is our behavior under stress affecting others? Do you lack patience and thus snap at others quickly? If things are perfect, do we lash out? Maybe you notice that you start to speaker louder and faster when you are having a stressful day – does this make those around you anxious and not want to be in your presence? Possibly you become demanding and short tempered – and all of a sudden those around us seem more stressed. Do you act as if it’s a major interruption to your day if someone sparks up a conversation with you while you are trying to get work done? Do you tap your foot when waiting in line at the grocery store? I encourage you to reflect on how some of the things you do to manage stress may negatively affect others.
- Unturned Radar – How do we misread other people, ignoring the non-verbal cues given and received? Are you a “close talker” – never noticing people slowly backing up as you talk to them? We’ve all had that phone conversation – the one we try and try politely to get hang up. The person on the other end just doesn’t take a hint. When you evaluate yourself, do you find there are areas in which it is more difficult for you to pick up on social cues? This can be a major turn off when relating to others. Try to be extra aware this week, what are some of the cues you might be missing?
- Disconnection – How do we fail to communicate? Or communicate in ways that we don’t intend? What is your nonverbal language saying about your current mood? Is your sarcasm received well or are do people get offended? Do you think people can tell easily if you are not engaged or feel bored with the conversation? Are you slouched over and yawning? Try to be unbiased about the way you relate to others – for instance – when you are busy and rushed. What about the way you act towards strangers? Be conscious about how your mannerisms and nonverbal. Do you often imply ideas rather than just state them? Are you blunt or do you find it hard to express yourself? How do you think others perceive you and your energy?
Strategies for Identifying Blind Spots
- Analyze yourself as if you were another person so you can depersonalize the process and be more objective.
- Always start by analyzing your strengths; this gives you a positive outlook.
- See your blind spots not as weaknesses but as behaviors that get in the way of fully using your strengths.
- Gather information from others (close friends you can trust) about what they see as your strengths and blind spots.
- Do not hesitate to ask people for information; the most confident people always ask for balanced feedback and constructive criticism.
- Make it comfortable for people to share negative feedback with you. Be grateful for their help.
Questions to Ponder
How do you define your greatest personal strength in your current work? How might you overuse that strength in a way that it creates a blind spot that could limit your success? How do you typically act out your stress in the workplace or at home? If you identify blind spots that are creating challenges for you, consider reaching out to a therapist to help you sort through them and improve your personal and/or work relationships.
If you would like to explore your Blind Spots, go to http://www.whatsmyblindspot.com. You will be able to complete a survey and find out your Blind Spot Profile. I completed the survey and it was incredibly accurate.
Blog written by Pam Newton, LCDC