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Self-Awareness Bonus Feature

A Dialogue with Marina Riedi

Last week I had the pleasure to dialogue with Marina Riedi on the topic of Self-Awareness. Marina is an Emotional Intelligence expert, and is a trainer and coach on the topic of EQ at her own company, EQ Power GmbH. She is also National Coordinator for Switzerland for the International Society for Emotional Intelligence. Marina has a real wealth of knowledge in the area of Self-Awareness and in this meaningful conversation we unpacked the benefits of awareness, ways for managers and organizations to support employees to access their self-awareness and some tools to greater self-awareness.

Marina Riedi -Emotional Intelligence expert

Afsheen Ismail: Marina, thank you for taking the time to dialogue with me on the topic of self-awareness. Marina, could you share with me your thoughts on the benefits of self-awareness?

Marina Riedi: Oh, thank you for this very good question starting with benefits. There are different aspects of self-awareness. Being a trainer on emotional intelligence and dealing with emotions I would define the self-awareness that I am working with as emotional self-awareness. It means being aware of your own emotions and understanding them. And when talking about benefits, I would like to share a metaphorical comparison of a radar that you have in the airport. Each airport has a radar, which is registering all the objects that are coming into the airport and going out of the airport. So, emotional self-awareness is this radar that you have inside of you, which would have all the emotions coming into you, circulating within you, and going out of you. I would say the benefits are as big as when an airport has a radar. Because you are aware of all the recognized good objects, and maybe some things which are coming your way which are not so good. And if you are not self-aware then you are not self-aware. The benefit self-awareness gives you is leverage to handle those emotionsthat you don't want that stand in your way.

AI: Actually, I love what you said at the end, that it gives you leverage. That is very powerful, the concept of having leverage over your emotions, because self-awareness is a radar that detects everything that goes in. These could be positive things, negative things, triggers. You also said something else that I found really interesting. If you don't have self-awareness, you don't have self-awareness. That is generally the paradox of self-awareness, right? If you want to grow your self-awareness, you need to know that you don't have enough of it.

MR: It’s so true.

AI: That actually leads me to the next question If a manager has a team member that actually is not self-aware, due to this paradox, how can they empower them then? Is that an almost impossible thing to do?

MR: My conviction is that in order for a person to step forward on a journey of self-development, the door for this has to be open from within. So, first of all, that is a very crucial and a potent prerequisite for self-awareness or any other personal growth. It happens only if the door is open from within.

AI: This is so true. Because there has to be ownership in order to use the leverage you mentioned earlier. So, I wrestle with this question then, is there really no chance then for a manager to provoke greater self-awareness or just create some curiosity perhaps in a person? What can a manager do?

MR: Yes, you can then use two main streams to motivate a person. In psychology, the first principle is related with moving forward – identifying something a person desires. The second principle is related with moving away from something that the person does not desire. So, a manager can have a conversation with an employee on what his or her vision, dreams, goals are and recognize the needs behind this person and link those to greater self-awareness. Therefore, a manager can show that self-awareness is contributing to achieving those visions, missions, goals, needs.

As a manager, as a coach, as a mentor we really should hold the mirror to help people connect the dots and see the linkages.

Based on the second principle, it is about addressing what a person may be suffering from, an argument or a feeling, and tying this to self-awareness. For people to avoid repeating this suffering.

AI: So, it's pain avoidance, and pleasure gaining. That’s quite interesting, and actually so empowering as well. Certainly, it is a great first step. It's just about giving people access. Then beyond that, whether that person picks up the ball, that is in their ownership.

MR: Yes. That's true. Because the ball has to be played by the person right?

AI: Exactly. That's really helpful Marina, great guidance for a manager. That's very empowering what you've suggested, because that gives managers an ability to create something in this space. If we extrapolate this then I wonder how can organizations create a culture of self-awareness? It is something I’ve wrestled with for a while. From our conversation I realise that there is a way to begin that process, and that is by creating access, and empowering managers and leaders to create that access more effectively. And who knows what's possible from there?

MR: Absolutely.

AI: That’s awesome! Marina, so once access is created and somebody has taken the ball and decided I'm going to run with it, then what are some of the coaching questions we can ask?

MR: So, building upon the sports metaphors, I believe sportsmen need a break. Also, in the Formula One, is this so called pit stop. So, what I always recommend people doing is a pit stop, or a timeout for their emotions.

Then there are 5 questions to ask.

First - How am I feeling? Then connecting with your body, recognizing body sensations. Followed by labelling, putting the right word from the emotional vocabulary to this physiological state.

Second - Why am I feeling what I'm feeling? Because emotions for some people happen spontaneously, but emotions are not spontaneous. They have their logic; they always have their reason why they are here. When our expectations are not met, or our beliefs are not shared with another person, or somebody is stepping on our values, or ours values are not fulfilled. That triggers emotions.

Third - What does this emotion do to me? This is more advanced and is more of a reflection skill. So, for example, if I was upset today, in the morning I might not be fully present with our dialogue. So, recognizing this.

Fourth - Is this the best emotional state for the task that they have at hand? How can I shift my emotional state to the most appropriate which I need now? And this is actually a benefit of awareness when you're making a decision. This is already an ability of emotional intelligence, being able to manage your state to which self-awareness is a pre-requisite.

Fifth - What are my mood and my emotions doing to others? What is the ripple effect of my emotions? So, the ripple effect is when we throw a stone into the water, you hear those waves going out. So just be aware that emotions are contagious. And you'll have to be aware that your emotions will impact other people. So, If I'm in a bad mood then it is part of personal responsibility to manage these emotions that may affect others in an unproductive way.

AI: These are very empowering questions, enabling questions. They give access. I notice when you were speaking that it is not just about self-awareness, there's the next step. It is about self-regulation. And in five questions, you not only help achieve a higher a level of emotional self-awareness but you also help us achieve shift through self-regulation. I have to ask Marina, do you think practice makes perfect?

MR: Absolutely, it’s a skill that everyone can develop. And for some it will take longer, for some it is a short journey. I think it's possible because it's about a behavioural change and we can train behaviours. And I don't want to undermine if somebody has a limitations because of their physiology or their past but I still believe that people can do this. The will and motivation is necessary for this, because everybody can do amazing things.

AI. Marina this takes me to my last question. So, once we've reached a point where we are self-aware, what are the behaviours associated with that?

MR: When you have greater self-awareness, you begin to recognize you effective behaviour and ineffective behaviour in any given situation. You begin to work with that higher level of self-awareness, to fine tune your responses, whether it is by going back and apologizing for mistakes you made in an argument, whether it's by knowing that maybe you do it differently next time, so on and so forth. So greater self-awareness, allows you greater access to recognizing effective and non-effective behaviour. Furthermore, you begin to recognize what your share is in a negative situation. Some people tend to blame others for hundred percent, which brings them into either a victim role or being maybe more like an aggressor.

AI: Yes, as in what you contributed to a specific situation. I appreciate that because it adds the cherry on top. It's a level of self-acceptance, right? That I am not perfect. And that perhaps I did contribute to this. And by doing so, that doesn't make me a bad person.

MR: You have to take responsibility for your emotions on your shoulders, because what is going on is seamless. But emotions are self-constructed, based on our evaluation system, based on our perceptions, assumptions. And because they are self-constructed, they have to be amended from the same source in a way. We created them, and it's our responsibility to change them. And this idea was confirmed to me by the work of Marshall Rosenberg, a creator of nonviolent communication. I really support his concept of nonviolent communication, which goes very deep into saying that anger is not because of other people, it's because we can label them or judge them and we don't take care of our needs. And on one hand, it can be very scary to admit to ourselves that it is our responsibility. On the other hand, it gives us power.

AI: Yes, it does. It really empowers. It is an organic process – from self-awareness to self-regulation to self-acceptance. And then empowerment. And there is the magic!

What a wonderful way to conclude. Marina, I feel very enlightened. Our conversation has created a wonderful access for me with regards to this topic. So, thank you so much for contributing to this.

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