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Research: Self-Awareness Increases Ability To Understand Others

By May 24, 2017Blog
self-awareness and other-awareness

Self-Awareness Takes Effort But It’s Worth It

If you feel like you can’t be alone with your thoughts…you need to be alone with your thoughts. Your thoughts are full of information that can benefit you. They tell you a great deal about your personality, which direction you’re ushering your life in and which concerns you need to address. Thinking is hard work though, that’s why we sometimes don’t do it as much as we should. To really investigate what we think about and why we think what we think about, takes motivation and energy and sometimes courage, too.

If you understand yourself you can help yourself and when you understand yourself, you can also improve your relationships with others. Why? Because self-awareness enables better understanding of others and now research also suggests this is the case.

The authors of this study,  Böckler et al. (2017), state: “As citizens of the twenty-first century, we face many problems of an industrialized and globalized world. Tensions between countries, cultures, and religions are rising; wars and political instabilities drive millions of people to leave their homes and seek refuge; and the consequences of climate change become ever more visible. Skillful solutions to these problems will require cooperation across nationalities and cultures. In order to achieve this goal, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of others—considering the viewpoint of those who hold different political and religious views and who are seeking shelter in our countries as well as bearing in mind the needs of future generations. Taking the cognitive perspective of other people is relevant for peaceful and successful interactions not only on an inter-cultural scale, but also in families, schools, and workplaces, both when communicating with acquaintances and with complete strangers.”

Talking about their study’s results, they explain, “This finding suggests a close link between getting better in understanding oneself and improvement in social intelligence.”

Self-Awareness Leads To Other-Awareness

How “socially intelligent” are you and how is it impacting your mental well-being, your relationships at home and your relationships with others?

We live in a distracted world and our attention is almost constantly being pulled in various directions throughout the day, from adverts to social media to mainstream media to family and friends to goals you’re focused on achieving to the distractions you’re using to suppress negative emotions.

During your distracted day, how much of it do you spend on activities and how much of it do you spend on just thinking? We’ve stripped away so much of our thinking time by being overly immersed in our smartphones as well as in other people’s lives, or at least their presentation of it. How often do you just sit there taking in the world or sit their thinking about things instead of simply consuming more information. When you’re dining with a friend and they leave the table to visit the bathroom, how often do you use that moment to appreciate where you are and all you’re absorbing through your senses? How often do you use those moments to just think about something you need to think about and leave your smartphone in your pocket?

Unless we engage well with out thoughts we can never move on from how they may be imprisoning us in misery, anger, ignorance or apathy, however subconsciously. We may be hurting ourselves with thoughts that aren’t serving us or we may be hurting our loved ones or our neighbours with our lack of reflection and introspection.

Remember that every time your brain absorbs a message from yourself or someone else, it has an impact. It impacts you physiologically inside your body in ways you probably don’t think about and it impacts your behaviours. But here’s the thing, nothing happens in isolation, it all has a ripple effect; you have a ripple effect on your own life, your loved ones and mankind itself. Start thinking about what you think about and how much it is serving you and the rest of us. We are all deeply connected, after all.



Böckler, A., Herrmann, L., Trautwein, F-M., Holmes, T., & Singer, T. (2017). Know Thy Selves: Learning to Understand Oneself Increases the Ability to Understand Others. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. DOI: 10.1007/s41465-017-0023-6.