I’ve been reading the book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston. There is a section in the book about the idea of dissonance. By this he means a difference in how we perceive ourselves versus how others perceive us. For example, if I believe I exude confidence but my friends see me as arrogance that would be a dissonance in how I perceive my confidence appears.

An exercise that the book recommends is sending friends who know you well and who’d be willing to respond a list of 22 negative descriptors and ask them to pick three in order which they feel apply to you. I looked at the list an I considered if this was something I wanted to do. On the one hand I wanted to know if how I perceived myself was the same as others perceived me. On the other hand did I really want to know how much of a jerk I could be. I was honestly stuck. The desire to remain comfortable in who I am warred strongly with the desire to know the truth. I wasn’t certain I had a thick enough skin to handle blunt, honest criticism of the person I believed myself to be. With great trepidation I finally decided to hear what my friends had to say.

Using Facebook Messenger, I sent the following to seven friends who I felt knew me well and would be willing to give me an answer:

So I am reading a book called “Just Listen” by Mark Goulston. He has a section on dissonance between how we see ourselves and how others see us. It suggests we ask people who know us to list 3 items in the 1,2,3 order from the list below of things that you feel apply to me. Would you please pick three items from the list that you feel apply to me?
Overly opinionated
Excessively perky
Closed minded

Not everyone got back to me with an answer. Of the ones I got, two felt that the words didn’t apply. And from the others there appeared to be no pattern. One person did suggest adding “dad jokes” to the list. A fair criticism to be honest. From the limited sample size I would like to hope to assume that either a) I’m a wide-spectrum jackass, or b) that I am fairly accurate on how I perceive myself versus how my friends see me.

I greatly appreciate the honesty and deliberation with which my friends gave me about my shortcomings. It was an unnerving exercise to try but I’m glad I did it. If you’re feeling brave and want to know if you honestly perceive the way you come across to others, I would recommend this to you. But you need to be thick skinned and not refute what your friends say. Blunt, honest critiques of who you are by the people that care about you can give you the boost you need to correct behavior that may be off-putting to those around you.

And one last warning about this exercise: don’t ask your partner. Twenty two words weren’t enough adjectives. 🙂

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