I came across an article worth sharing this morning. In it, the author of the recently published book Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life Tasha Eurich explores the “right” and “wrong” way to be introspective. In this post she endorses the importance of self-awareness:

The qualities most critical for success in today’s world — including emotional intelligence, empathy, influence, persuasion, communication and collaboration — all stem from self-awareness.

There are a few gems that I particularly appreciated in this piece. One of them was her emphasis on “What Not Why.” These are the questions that we ask ourselves when we are introspective. This is something I learned in my master’s degree program from one of my favorite teachers. “It is not helpful to ask clients ‘why’ questions” but it is helpful to inquire using “how” and “what” questions to probe more deeply into the experience of others. Same goes for when we are doing our own internal reflection.”Why” can feel blamey, it can also encourage defensiveness.

When it comes to developing internal self-awareness, I like to use a simple tool that I call What Not WhyWhy questions can draw us to our limitations; what questions help us see our potential. Why questions stir up negative emotions; what questions keep us curious. Why questions trap us in our past; what questions help us create a better future.

Another part of this post that I enjoyed was the emphasis on using “What Not Why” regarding emotions, and how the labeling of emotions in and of itself helps us to manage them. From my experiences with Vipassanā meditation and the process of labeling my thoughts as well as my experiences both counseling others and tending to my own emotions, I know this naming process is an effective strategy.

At times, asking what instead of why can force us to name our emotionsa process that a strong body of research has shown to be effective. Evidence shows the simple act of translating our emotions into language — versus simply experiencing them — can stop our brains from activating our amygdala, the fight-or-flight command center. This, in turn, seems to help us stay in control.

Read it yourself and let me know what you think!


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