Do you have a blind spot? How would you know if you did?
It is not uncommon for people to close their eyes to the parts of themselves they don’t want to see. Many of us find it difficult to own up to our flaws. We can naturally view these parts of ourselves as negative or bad. They don’t fit the positive self-image we like to entertain. Yet these negative or problematic aspects are often obvious to others, even if we think we are hiding them effectively.
Ultimately, there are only two ways to deal with blind spots: find out what they are, or avoid finding out. Unfortunately, both approaches are problematic.
If we try to find out from others, few people will be candid because of the fear of injuring our self-esteem and losing our friendship. The daring person who honestly tells it like it is might, in fact, lose our friendship, at least temporarily. And unless we know how to change, the sting of the negative information we get about ourselves might erode our self-esteem without contributing to our growth. Alternatively, that daring person might share feedback perceptions polluted by the his or her own defensiveness, which means we can never be absolutely certain of the reliability of the information.
If we take the path of least resistance (and “lesser courage”) and avoid finding out what our blind spots are, we are definitely in the majority. Most people rationalize known problems, blinding themselves to the extent of harm they cause, or else totally block out self-awareness in some ways in order to feel great about themselves so they can “have a nice day.” But at what price? Professionally and personally, who pays for a person’s disowned negativity? The people closest to that person, especially those with less power.
Socially, we have to either work around each other’s negative behaviors or confront each other with the problems they cause. When we work around each other, we become enablers, giving people with the biggest problems much more power over us than they really deserve. We end up taking care of problem people rather than accomplishing our own goals. Confronting behavior problems is the job of managers, and good managers are artful in their ability to facilitate change and growth in subordinates through confrontational finesse. But what happens when it’s the manager who avoids honest self-examination? What subordinate will step out to confront a manager when the manager could easily retaliate by “firing the messenger”?
Written feedback, gathered confidentially from a number of subordinates, peers, or customers provides more reliable results than the feedback of any one individual. In addition, subordinates and customers often perceive performance gaps that are missed by managers since it is the subordinates or customers who are closest to the individual’s job behaviors and are most affected by their blind spots.