Two weeks ago I emailed 20 people asking for a favour. I asked them to highlight what they considered to be my personal weaknesses.

No, I’m not a masochist; I don’t overly enjoy criticism. But what I do enjoy is working to improve myself and by asking for feedback from a trusted group of colleagues, family and friends, I would be better able to do just that.

What I was aiming for when I sent that email (which is copied below) was to improve my self-awareness and in turn, my emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the building block to being able to control your communication, take personal responsibility for your behaviour, and regulate your emotions. Why? Because you can’t change what you won’t, or don’t, acknowledge.

People who are highly self-aware know their strengths and weaknesses. They know their faults and limitations and see themselves closer to how other people see them. It doesn’t come as a shock to them when others give them honest feedback.

So how do you know where your self-awareness sits? One of the most effective ways to understand if the way you view yourself is in line with the way other people see you, is to outright ask.

Before you do though, here are some important things to consider:

  • Only seek feedback if you’re willing to hear it. You don’t have to agree with it, but you do have to consider it and decide whether it holds any truth for you.
  • Be selective about who you seek feedback from. Don’t choose someone who will simply tell you what you want to hear or take the opportunity to lay in the boots with malicious intent. Pick people you know will be considered, honest and courageous in the way they respond. People whose opinions you respect. Be brave and ask a range of people. I asked colleagues, clients, family and friends. I think my husband enjoyed the activity the most!
  • Don’t get angry or offended by the feedback. If you’ve asked for it and someone has given it, be grateful for the gift even if it hurts. Regardless of whether you agree with the feedback or not, it is someone else’s perception of you and that’s important information to have.
  • Use the feedback to help you improve, not to beat yourself up. The purpose of seeking constructive personal feedback is to increase your self-awareness and personal development, NOT so you can criticise yourself for not being perfect (remember, perfect doesn’t exist).
  • Only do this activity if and when you feel strong enough to handle the responses. If you’re going through a tough time or feeling vulnerable, now is probably not the time to actively seek personal criticism.

So what did I send? Below is a copy of my email. Feel free to use it as a base for your own.

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Subject: I have a favour to ask and I’m hoping you can help

Good morning,

I have a favour to ask and I’m hoping you can assist.

I am currently working hard to improve my personal effectiveness and self-awareness to ensure I am the best version of myself for me, my loved ones and my clients. Although I am conscious of a number of areas I need to improve on, I’m reaching out to selected family, friends and colleagues whose honest opinions I trust and value.

I’d love it if you could please take a few minutes to respond to this email with two or three things I could do better. Essentially, I’m asking you to highlight what you perceive as my personal weaknesses. 

If it makes you feel better and helps you to be more honest, you can tell me a couple of my strengths as well – but please don’t feel you need to! I genuinely want your honest feedback, so please don’t worry about hurting my feelings or offending me. Seeing myself as others see me and being aware of any blind spots I have is essential to my success.

Thank you in anticipation – both for responding to this email and for being part of my network.

Have a great day.

Leah.

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Over the coming weeks, the responses rolled in. They were exactly what I’d hoped for: considered, generous and brutally honest. Some were difficult to read. Not because they were nasty or mean, but because they highlighted things I knew I had to work on. The spotlight was on and there was nowhere to hide. Nothing came as a surprise though, which was a good sign for my level of self-awareness.

I welcomed every reply, knowing that for some people what I’d asked them to do had put them completely out of their comfort zone and been a personal challenge. It was uncomfortable for them too and also a risk, for although I’d said I wouldn’t get offended, they didn’t know that for sure. I am so grateful they trusted me to take their responses on board in the way they intended.

Once I had the feedback, the next question was what to do with it. How could I use it in a positive way that helped me strive to do better?

I started a Word document and re-wrote each identified weakness as an area for improvement. By the end, I had a powerful one-page document that I now read every morning as a reminder of where I need to focus to be the best version of myself. It includes great advice like:

  • Accept help from other people.
  • Don’t overcommit.
  • Let go and stop trying to do everything yourself.
  • Slow down and breathe. Not everything has to be done at break-neck speed and it all doesn’t need to happen today.

These words have power. Not just because I know they’re true, but because they were compiled based on feedback from people I love, respect, value and admire; people who have my best interests at heart.

Not only am I more self-aware after sending that email, I’m practicing more self-care too. It has been a wonderful experience and one – if you’re up to it – I encourage you to consider as well.

Want to learn more strategies to help improve your personal effectiveness? Join Leah for her next public workshop, Personal Effectiveness: Skills for Success in Traralgon on 19 September 2018. Tickets are on sale now at https://effectivenesstgon.eventbrite.com.au/