The Limits to Reflection

Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of the Science and Success blog and also blogger for the Harvard Business Review, shares the results of three or four decades of research that say that our own ratings of our personality traits, like open-mindedness, thoughtfulness, and impulsivity, are correlated at only about forty percent, on average, with other people’s views of us. What’s more, other people on average see us more clearly.

Along similar lines, Seth Godin, marketing guru who has sometimes been described as a great advisor for people whose work is, in fact, excellent but not such a good advisor for people whose work is, in fact, mediocre, finally wrote something today I have been waiting for him to write:

It might be that your audience isn’t smart enough, caring enough, attentive enough, with-it enough or generous enough to understand and appreciate you.

Or it might be that you’re not good enough (yet).

If you’re in the habit of assuming one of these, try out the other one for a while.

The problem, of course, in his advice is that exactly the people who should realize that their work is pretty thin and their minds too narrow for the game they are in, will think the first option is speaking to them.

There is typically a lot to learn from those who don’t flatter you.


About reflectionsandrotations

I'm an educator and coach with a special interest in fostering creative thinking, designing effective learning environments, and building communities of learners
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One Response to The Limits to Reflection

  1. WildC says:

    As long as believing you’re not good enough doesn’t become a barrier to trying…
    Plus, given there seems to be such a large audience for mediocre content, the first one might actually be the problem!
    Personally the ‘criticism’ that has helped me most is the positive kind…That comes from those insightful individuals who grasp what you’re is trying to do – even though you may not yet be succeeding – and point out what IS working and encourage more of it rather than focussing on what’s wrong. Flattery isn’t helpful but empowering someone is.

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