Empty Mirror

Maintaining Band Relationships 1 – Self-Awareness

I’ve blogged before about the importance of band relationships and having the right people in the band. But even among the best of friends emotions can sometimes get strained. In order to keep things running smoothly it’s vital to have a good understanding of your own thoughts and feelings. Without a clear insight into your own state of mind emotions can steam-roll over you before you can do anything about them. That’s why self-awareness is critical for maintaining band relationships.

Grumpy Toddlers

Most of us are probably familiar with the grumpy toddler. The child who has had too many sugary sweets and been running around all afternoon. They’re now whinging, moaning, shouting and throwing a tantrum. They don’t know it’s because they’re tired and have low blood sugar, they just know they feel rotten and they take it out on everyone around them.

As we get older we become better at understanding what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it. When we’re tired we rest, when we’re hungry we eat. That way we manage our emotions and their impact on other people.

This awareness is rarely taught. It comes to most people over time. Some people are better at it and some people are worse. If we want to have the best possible relationships then it’s useful to try to develop our self-awareness as much as we can.

Developing Self-Awareness

The best advice I can give about developing self-awareness is to spend time thinking about your feelings, where they come from and how they affect your actions. The more you practice this the better you will get at it.

Ideally, do this at regular intervals throughout the day or just once at the end of the day. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What emotions have I been feeling today? What emotions am I feeling right now. Try to name them if you can.
  • How strong were these emotions? Mild, moderate, intense, overwhelming?
  • Why was I feeling each of these emotions? What caused them? They may have more than one cause.
  • How did these emotions affect my behaviour?
  • Are there things I did because I was feeling one emotion that I wouldn’t have done if I was feeling another?

Don’t restrict yourself to negative emotions. Think through all the positive and neutral feelings you’ve experienced through the day.

The more you do this the more automatic it will become. That way when you find yourself in a particularly emotionally charged situation you will be better able to understand your own feelings and reactions.

Be Honest

When engaging in this kind of introspection it’s important to be very honest with yourself. That can be difficult. We all like to think the best of ourselves. It can be hard to admit when we feel things for reasons that aren’t particularly noble or that contradict out values. It’s also hard to acknowledge that we did certain things just because we were tired or angry or jealous.

Remember that you’re not trying to judge yourself, you’re trying to understand yourself. You don’t have to share this with anyone. You don’t have to write it down. You won’t get ‘found out’. But if you’re not honest with yourself you’ll never be able to change it next time. It’s particularly these uncomfortable emotions and actions that we might want to do something about.

My tip for this is not to always accept the first answer that comes to mind. Try to think up a few different possible answers for each of the questions above. Consider each of the answers and see which one seems most likely, most consistent with everything that happened.

Only you can judge if or when you’ve really hit upon the ‘true’ answer. You might only realise what it was weeks or months after the event. The more you do it the better you’ll get.

Summary

If we don’t understand ourselves we can’t control ourselves. In order to have good band relationships it’s important to practice identifying what we’re feeling, why we’re feeling it, and how that affects us. That’s the first step on the path to controlling it. More on Self-Control next time.

 

(This series owes a lot to the writing on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and others. However, I’ve found all the material I’ve encountered on this topic unsatisfying because it doesn’t tell you how to improve your emotional intelligence, it just tells you what it is and why it’s important. This is my attempt to fill in the ‘how to’ void.)

Picture courtesy of dred8667 used under creative commons licence.

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