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How To Deal With People Who Lack Self-Awareness: 6 No Nonsense Tips

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Are you self-aware?

Long-term research by organizational psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich found that 95% of people believe themselves to be self-aware. In reality, only about 10-15% of people actually are. (source)

Part of the reason for this phenomenon is that there are two distinct, completely unrelated aspects of self-awareness – internal and external.

Internal self-awareness is to be familiar with your own internal workings, emotions, and mannerisms. For example, a person may be in touch with who they are as a person, how they interact with life, and how they interact with other people.

External self-awareness is an understanding of how other people perceive and receive us. A person may not understand that they are coming off as rude, abrasive, or unapproachable if they have low external self-awareness.

Self-awareness is an important soft skill that many people just don’t have because they may not see a reason to develop it. It doesn’t appear to provide the same kind of benefit that hard skills acquired through training and schooling can provide, typically translating into better opportunities.

Those people don’t realize that an ability to communicate and take constructive criticism in their stride can massively separate them from the competition.

Knowing that, how do you deal with people who have low self-awareness?

Determine whether they have low self-awareness or if it’s a choice.

A person with low self-awareness will likely not be aware of the social missteps they are making. They may be trying to participate in earnest, be friendly, and want to integrate, but they’re bad at it. They may have poor personal hygiene, not understand social etiquette, or make drastic mistakes.

On the other hand, you have people who are fully aware of what they are doing and choose to do the wrong thing. For example, they may come off as crass because they are choosing to be crass. They don’t necessarily want polite social engagement or only connect with other people who have a similar mentality. They may not care who they offend because they have no desire to be close to people who get offended by that kind of behavior.

Maybe it’s not someone in your personal life. It could be a coworker or manager who chooses to be unfriendly and unapproachable because they feel it’s the best way to function in the workplace. They may be stand-off-ish, rude, bullying, or display other negative behaviors that encourage people to just stay away from them.

And really, that’s the best policy when a person is choosing to be unpleasant. The less time you can spend around them, the better off you are. These are the types of people and situations that will affect your mental health and break you down. You can’t control their behavior. You can only control what you’re willing to tolerate.

9 traits of a person with low self-awareness.

How can you tell if a person has low self-awareness? Some common traits may point to it. They include things like:

1. The person generally has low emotional intelligence. They may not understand why other people feel the way they do or why they feel the things they do.

2. They suppress their emotions instead of acknowledging or dealing with them. The person may also live in denial.

3. They don’t take responsibility for themselves or their actions. Instead, they may shift blame to others.

4. They often lack empathy for the struggles of others.

5. They fail to see or acknowledge their own shortcomings. They can’t see their own weaknesses.

6. They cannot explain the reasons behind their actions. They just go with the flow of their emotions, for better or worse.

7. They are poor communicators. They may shut down communication before it ever really gets a chance to take off into something meaningful.

8. They have poor time management and organizational skills. They may overestimate their own ability to accomplish certain goals.

9. They may not have a self-identity, or it’s poorly formed. They just don’t really know who they are or why they are the way they are.

Can I encourage this person to develop self-awareness?

It’s tempting to want to nudge the person or encourage them to be more aware, but it’s not really something you can give to another person. The process of developing self-awareness first comes from the desire to actually improve. Until a person wants to do that, there really isn’t anything you can force on them, nor should you. No one likes to be forced to do things. It’s a quick way to earn animosity and will likely give you many more problems than solutions.

The person may be receptive to constructive criticism. Do they ask questions about their own actions or performance? Are they the type of person who is willing to at least hear out other advice? You can also just try asking directly, “Hey, can I give you a bit of feedback on XYZ thing?”

Be careful with where you do that. It can cause you bigger problems and conflict if the advice is poorly received, especially in the workplace.

Instead, you will need to focus more on your responses to the person and how you navigate them.

How can I better deal with a person with low self-awareness?

1. Try to meet people where they are.

To meet a person where they are is to come to their level to interact. You do your best to try to avoid judging them or their behavior, so long as it’s not abusive, and still interact with them with dignity and respect.

You may not be able to directly encourage a person to be self-aware. Still, you can set a standard for interaction that is based on respect. Meet the person with an equal amount of force, an equal amount of give and take.

2. Keep it short and to the point.

People with low self-awareness may act inconsiderately toward others. The less exposure you give them to sensitive matters or important projects, the less chance they can make a mess of things.

Avoid including them in long-term projects or involving them in sensitive matters that require diplomacy. They may not have the soft skill tools to deal with those matters well. They may make an earnest effort to get it done but make matters worse through easily avoidable social mistakes.

3. Minimize your time with them.

They can’t deal damage to you if you aren’t spending your time with them. Minimize the amount of time that you give to these people.

Be wary of getting involved too deeply with them. Deep friendships and romantic relationships with people with low self-awareness are often an emotional drain.

They may have poor social skills, emotional skills, or be inconsiderate because they just can’t see how other people perceive their behavior.

4. Set clear boundaries.

Boundaries teach people how you want to be treated. They are essential for having healthy friendships and relationships.

Your establishing a boundary communicates to the other person that you are not okay with being treated a particular way. That puts the responsibility on them to acknowledge that boundary and respect it.

People with low self-awareness may not see or respect boundaries well. And quite likely, they may not have boundaries of their own because they can’t see where they actually need them.

5. Make sure it isn’t actually you.

Sometimes, the problems we perceive in other people can actually be caused by our own perceptions and reactions. Maybe it’s not that the person lacks self-awareness. It could be that your actions or demeanor may be causing them to respond in a less than positive way.

Really take some time to consider whether your actions are right in the situation. If they’re not, you may need to amend your own behavior before you can interact with that other person.

6. Consider changing your environment.

Self-management aside, sometimes the only option you’ll have is to just change the environment you’re in.

For example, if you’re in a toxic work environment with people treating you badly, you may just need to start looking for a new job. And similarly, you may need to purge out your friends from time to time if they are causing you a lot of distress and harm.

Do make sure that you are not the problem in that scenario. Seek some feedback from someone you know and trust to see whether or not you’re being fair about the situation. If it is a you problem, you’ll just keep running into the same issues when you move on to something else. And that won’t provide you with any kind of solution.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.