3 Ways to Find Your Blind Spots

"It isn't that they can't see the solution.  It is that they can't see the problem."  -- G.K. Chesterton


My seven-year-old has a epic set of cowlicks on top of his head.  He wakes up most mornings with a "bed head" that's awesomely photo worthy. Taming his mane takes a good bit of water and brush work.  However, when he's getting ready for school, he only pays attention to the hair that he can see while looking straight into the mirror.

Every morning he claims to be ready for school when I ask,  but when I spin him around, he's typically missed combing the back of his head.  In other words, he's "business in the front, chaos in the back."  If he had put his hand (or, heaven forbid, the brush) back there, he would have felt it.  If he had moved his head and gotten a different view in the mirror, he would have seen it.  But instead, he consistently makes it MY job to point out the problem.

For some reason, he can't remember to check his "blind spot" - the back of his head - in the mirror.

Of course, we all are a little bit like my son, aren't we?

We know that we have blind spots, but we don't do much to use the "mirrors" (or the people) around us to help.  Instead, we put others in the uncomfortable/frustrating/annoying position of calling us out (or, worse, simply standing by to silently notice "the chaos" in our life or personality).  What we all need most is direct, candid, and specific feedback, but it's rare to have that happen in a normal day.

Instead, we have to develop skills at using the best "mirror" that our life can have... those around us who care about us and desire to see us improve. Using the mirrors means LOOKING to them for input.

As painful as it is to invite others to help us discover our blind spots, doing so gives us a HUGE opportunity to grow and improve.  So the question becomes, how DO you check for blind spots in your life?  Here's three ideas...

1. Focus on Developing Self-Awareness - As I've said before - Awareness proceeds choice and choice proceeds change.  For many of us, becoming self-aware takes work!  Most of us traipse through life saying, "I'm not aware that I have any self-awareness issues."  Of course you are not aware.  That is why they care called self-awareness issues.  Similarly, if you think you can see what is in your blind spot, you are kidding yourself.  That is why they are called blind spots.  To fix this, take an honest look at what dynamics exist around you consistently.  For instance:

  • Are people slow to speak up around you?  If so, maybe you're intimidating or you  dominate the conversation.
  • Do people ignore your ideas? If so, maybe you head off topic easily, struggle with listening to others, or miss the vision.
  • Are you rarely consulted on decisions?  If so, maybe you haven't communicated your opinions effectively.
  • Do people hide problems or mistakes from you?  If so, you might be tagged as someone who doesn't handle challenges well, a loose cannon, or a naysayer.

There are as many different examples of blind spots as there are people.  All of us have them;  your job is to know yours.

2. Solicit Feedback on Specific Topics - General feedback rarely gives you much to work with.  ("It was fine" isn't very helpful.) However, specific feedback arising from specific questions is gold.

  • Have you just finished a big project? Break the project into small pieces and ask for pointed feedback on specific issues.  Ask others to weigh in on the planning, communication, or execution phase.  Ask direct and pointed questions that will give you insight into where you can improve in each and every phase.
  • Did you make a presentation?  Don't just ask someone what they thought, ask what they remember about what you said.  How was  your energy level?  Were your transitions strong?  Did anything make you laugh or think, "ah ha?"

By asking specific questions, you may be able to see what you've been missing.

3. Make the Environment Safe for Feedback -  When you're looking for blind spots, never ever argue with someone's perspective.  The worst thing that can happen is for you to invite feedback, coax out someone's thoughts, and then slap those thoughts down.  A different perspective is exactly what you're looking for.  Remember, you're seeking input, not affirmation.  People who give you the feedback are acting like mirrors, reflecting back what your actions are communicating.  Don't blame them if you don't like what you hear.

Never, ever, argue with a mirror.  Unless you're at a carnival, it's speaking truth.

How do you overcome your blind spots?