Mastery of self is far harder than it sounds. Knowing yourself is actually a life challenge that takes continuous efforts to do so - it is by no means a superficial statement, neither is it an ego trip.
Its always easier to describe someone else - do you feel that way too? Picture yourself having a conversation with a close friend - do you feel that you are quite comfortable to make insightful observations about him/her and to provide a thorough description about his/her tendencies, preferences, values and goals? Picture yourself at the mirror and doing the same - are you equally as adapt in providing insightful observations about yourself? Or are you slower to do so. We are usually our very own greatest challenge and mystery.
Why does mastering people skills start from knowing yourself?
1. Authenticity is key
Many skills start from authenticity. Authenticity is the root to many aspects of life. To have others embrace us as a friend, colleague and a leader, we must be able to embrace ourselves and be able to know, understand and wholeheartedly recognise the true self.
According to leadership expert and scholar Peter Drucker, the most common characteristic amongst great leaders is integrity. Integrity is the natural result of being authentic and fully yourself.
To achieve this, you have to know who you really are. What drives you, what values do you hold on to, what are your guiding principles, what is important to you, what do you not react well to, what do you enjoy doing most.
2. Relating to others starts from self
Being able to relate to those around you is about having an honest, open connection. And when you have a high level of awareness of yourself and your strengths and blind spots - you are able to connect well to others and project the same level of awareness to their needs and preferences. You are essentially practicing empathy and understanding - and that opens your ability to master people skills that is beyond just learning what words to say. True communication is the ability to empathise and connect. And if you can connect - the more you learn and understand others, the better you are able to relate.
3. People skills is dynamic - but it always involves you
When we talk about people skills, its not about how great person A and B get along with you. Its about how well YOU get along with person A and B. You are always the common factor here. And if you thought learning people skills was about learning about person A and B, then you may have missed the mark altogether. You need to learn about you first.
There is always a strong tendency to try to analyse others, to look at their tendencies - and forgetting that you yourself are part of the environment that you are trying to understand.
Once you have mastered your own self awareness, you will then be able to practice the same level of self awareness on others - and be able to see and understand things from the perspective of others. People skills isn't about changing others around you to fit what you feel is an ideal state. It is about being able to both reach out to one another and connect in a space which makes both persons comfortable in their own way.
"But until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why want to doit, you cannot succeed in any way but the most superficial sense of the word.” Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader