A driver’s blind spots create terrifying near misses and great danger on the road because they threaten the driver and passengers as well as many other innocent passersby. That’s why mirrors and sensors and other safety features are critical tools to make drivers fully aware of the world around them. In the same way, we all have blind spots in marriage, in work, and everywhere else in life.
If we haven’t identified them, we’re probably just unaware of them. And when we’re unaware of them, they can be very destructive. Here are 4 ways to identify blind spots in yourself that can be hurting you and your relationships.
1. List your struggles.
The first step is to look at the struggles that recur in your life that you already know are hard to overcome. This requires a willingness to ask yourself some hard questions, and the guts to be honest with yourself about those answers. Start by asking what you would change about yourself if you could snap your fingers and be different. Also ask what you know others would change about you if they could.
2. Identify common themes among your struggles.
A key to solving a puzzle, a whodunit, or just about any work problem is to look for patterns. It’s similar with our blind spots. You might notice that people are consistently angry with you whether you’re at work, at home, or out and about. Don’t dismiss this theme as “everyone around me is too sensitive.” These patterns are clues. Ask yourself what difficulties you seem to have consistently with people in your life. Then ask yourself what part you play in that.
3. Ask others for feedback.
Even the great King David in ancient Israel admitted to God that he needed help to search and understand his own heart. Be willing to ask loved ones, colleagues, friends, and even your spouse and kids questions such as, “What can I do to be a better colleague/spouse/dad?” or “What weaknesses do you see in me that keep me from becoming a better person?” Of course, asking such vulnerable questions requires an openness to listening to the answers. So be prepared to hear them without being defensive. You might even need to add a promise: “I will not try to defend or excuse myself. I just need to see myself through your eyes.”
4. Identify patterns in the insights, solicited and unsolicited, of others.Be willing to consider that some of what people have said about you is more on point than you want it to be.
There are also clues in other people’s unsolicited feedback. Maybe employers have cited the same reasons when you’ve lost jobs, or friends or loved ones have had the same complaints when they’ve ended relationships with you. Be willing to consider that some of what people have said about you is more on point than you want it to be. And if the feedback you’re soliciting from people close to you confirms it, take them very seriously.
I’ll close with a personal example. As a writer with a background in law, I choose my words carefully. I’ve often thought—with some pride—that I could inspire, persuade, or charm my wife Susan if I could just pick the right phrases to convey something truthfully. But I learned by looking at my own blind spots that my body language often derailed my words because I used tones or facial expressions that were dismissive or demeaning. By being open to introspection and honest conversations, I realized my need to work on aligning my nonverbal and verbal communication. We all have blind spots like this. Who is in danger from yours?
Sound off: What blind spots did you once have that you’ve discovered and learned from?