Tasha Eurich (@tashaeurich) is an organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times bestselling author of Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think.

What We Discuss with Tasha Eurich:

  • How to identify and navigate the invisible barriers to self-awareness.
  • Why thinking about ourselves isn’t related to knowing ourselves.
  • How to deal with the woefully un-self-aware people in your life.
  • How to use mindfulness to become more self-aware, and how to practice it without mantras.
  • Why no one is telling you the truth about how you’re coming across — and why that’s dangerous.
  • And much more…

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Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think by Tasha EurichTo discover whether the science of self-awareness supports the hype of its buzzword status in the business world, Tasha Eurich spent six years studying the topic in great detail, which resulted in her New York Times bestseller Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think.

How we see ourselves and others, both at work and at home, has been shown not only to provide leaders with better teams in the office, but also helps unlock happier marriages, have stronger relationships, and even raise less narcissistic children. On this episode we explore how self-awareness is related to personal and professional success, how we can get more self-awareness, and perhaps most important for many of us, how we can encourage other people to develop more self-awareness. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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Transcript for Tasha Eurich | The Surprising Truth About Insight (Episode 296) [COMING SOON!]

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On the Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world’s most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. I want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. I want you to become a better thinker.

[00:00:24] If you’re new to the show, we’ve got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you’re smart and you like to learn and improve, you’re going to be right at home here with us.

[00:00:40] Today’s conversation is about self-awareness. Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist and researcher. Self-awareness is really an interesting field. I find that a lot of the people who speak mostly about this on social media are some of the least self-aware people. That’s kind of how this got to my radar.

[00:00:58] And today on the show, we’ll explore how self-awareness is related to personal and professional success, how we can get more self-awareness, and perhaps most importantly for many of us, how we can encourage other people to develop more self-awareness. Or we can at least learn to mitigate those people’s effect on us, and we’ll discuss that today as well.

[00:01:16] How we see others and ourselves, both at work and at home, has been shown not only to provide leaders with better teams in the office, but also helps unlock happier marriages, have stronger relationships, and even raise less narcissistic children, which is worth pursuing, I’d say. Self-awareness goes a bit deeper than we think. Nobody wants to walk around with metaphorical toilet paper stuck to their shoes for 20 years.

[00:01:39] In my opinion, this is a fun episode. I think you’ll enjoy the conversation as well, and if you want to learn how I book all these great people, not just guest booking, but how I generate a network and maintain a network with people like Tasha in it, well, I use systems and tiny habits. I don’t spend hours and hours doing this. I’m teaching you how to do this for free at my course Six-Minute Networking. Again, free course, no upsell, jordanharbinger.com/course is where you can find that. I’d love to see what you think of the course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us. You’re going to be in great company. And now here’s Tasha Eurich.

[00:02:17] What struck me about this that I thought was really funny was, first of all, the idea that we think we’re self-aware, but we’re actually not. And the huge number of people that think that they’re self-aware but aren’t. What was the way you phrased it, 80 percent of us are lying to ourselves about lying to ourselves? Can you explain what that means?

Tasha Eurich: [00:02:37] That’s it. That’s the one that really hits home, I think for so many people. I was interested in self-awareness just because I’ve been an executive coach and an organizational psychologist for the last 15 or so years, and I had noticed that this term had become just this huge buzzword, you know, seemingly overnight. And I began to wonder, for all of the platitudes and all of the Forbes articles that everybody’s reading about this, what do we actually know from a scientific standpoint? So my research team and I, a little more than five years ago, really decided to dive in because we wanted to understand from again, a science-based standpoint, what is self-awareness? Where does it come from? Why do we need it and how do we get more of it?

[00:03:20] And one of the first sets of statistics that we stumbled upon was very early on, we just wanted to say, what’s the delta between where most of us think we are and where most of us actually are? Based on, you know, this was thousands of people all around the world that we collected data from, we found that about 95 percent of people tend to believe they’re self-aware. They say, “Yeah, you know, I see myself pretty clearly. I know how I come across. I know who I am.” But the real number is closer to about 10 to 15 percent, as you said. And so it presents a really interesting challenge. And it also presents an interesting challenge for writing a book about this because, in some sense, the people who most need this material and this book might be the least likely to read it.

[00:04:04] And that’s why self-awareness, I think, is one of the most important things any of us can ever work on. It’s a skill that almost nobody prioritizes because they think they’re already there. But what we found in our research is that when we do, and when we can even just incrementally improve how clearly we see ourselves, the benefits touch every part of our lives.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:26] This strikes me as one of those concepts where you have to continually work on it, or maybe it fades away. And I don’t know if you have any research in this area, but a lot of people will say something like, “Oh, I’m really good at networking, so I didn’t take your networking course.” This is a course that’s free that I give away that I also teach, like the CIA, the secret service, really, really high-level teams that work for some of the biggest names in the world from companies like Facebook — like the people you think of when you think Facebook and Microsoft — those teams are taking it, and I’ll get an email from some like financial planner that’s like, “Nah, I don’t need that. I’m already good at it.” This strikes me as a similar skill set where somebody goes, “Oh, I’m already in shape, so I stopped going to the gym.” Nobody says that, but they will do it with pretty much any other skill that requires maintenance.

Tasha Eurich: [00:05:11] That is, I think, dead on. One of the things we did in our research program that I thought was so fascinating was we actually found people who didn’t start out as self-aware, who entered their adulthood, either sort of low in self-awareness or moderate self-awareness, but who were able to — through some magical process we wanted to understand — learn to see themselves more clearly. And what we found was sort of two things that were surprising to me about these 50 people that we did really exhaustive interviews with.

[00:05:42] One was, they came to that self-knowledge surprisingly incrementally. And what I mean by that is — I think most of us think of self-awareness as this magical process where you know, something happens and we wake up one day and “Oh, this is why I was put on this earth, or this is the type of company I want to work for.” You know, what have you. But what we found was they really worked every day to make small incremental gains in how clearly they saw themselves. So it’s not this magical process. Like you said, it’s like going to the gym. And if you’re not exercising that muscle, the muscle is going to decay.

[00:06:18] The second thing that we discovered was that those people, these self-awareness unicorns, as we called them, actually worked harder on their self-awareness than almost anyone else. And they were objectively the best at it. So going back to that networking course analogy, you know, if you’re great at networking, what better thing to do than to get even better? What was cool about this though, if anybody’s listening to this and going, “Oh, God, this sounds really onerous,” was there were a lot of times where we found that our self-awareness unicorns actually spent less time in things like introspection or self-examination and got more results. And so that’s one way I encourage my clients to look at this is this doesn’t have to be a time suck. In fact, if it is a time suck, you might not be taking an approach that’s going to give you the benefit you’re looking for. I think that’s a really good way to start off talking about this topic.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:08] Yeah. You’d think introspection would be kind of a key, and yet it’s not. To back up a little bit, 95 percent of the people believe they’re self-aware, and 10 to 15 percent of the people are. This is from your own research. So that’s where that 80 percent of people are lying to themselves about lying to themselves. And you know, it’s funny, when I saw this topic, when I started looking at your work, I see some of the most non-self-aware people making YouTube videos and going on social media. And I think you probably know who I’m talking about, because I would imagine everyone has; they send you this stuff when it pops up. And there’s a few — they’re all guys — there are a few guys out there, of course, that say things like, “I’m so self-aware. And also I’m so humble.” And it’s like, do you just not see any of the irony here? I wonder though, if every year I look at who I was last year and I want to crawl into a hole and die, does that mean I’m self-aware? Because it kind of feels like I am, but I’m not sure now.

Tasha Eurich: [00:08:01] That’s a really good question. Let’s talk about that. Here’s a good analogy that I think kind of helps demystify the right amount of self-awareness. Imagine you’re driving a car and you’re cruising down the highway; you’ve got somewhere to be. If you have no self-awareness or in the case of you’re mentioning, if you have an incorrect assessment of, let’s say, how much gas you have in the tank, you’re going to drive until you eventually run out of gas and you’re not going to see it coming. You’re going to be surprised. You’re going to be pissed off. There’s kind of a bump in the road for you trying to get where you are. But the solution is not to go to the other side of the spectrum and drive while constantly looking at your gas gauge. That’s unproductive for a different reason. That’s when the process of self-examination becomes almost like a self-imposed prison, where we become self-absorbed and self-conscious.

[00:08:56] What we found in our research that’s so fascinating is the self-awareness unicorns have these sort of twin pillars. On one hand, they’re highly self-aware, but at the same time, they’re very self-accepting. And what those two things do together is they allow us to, every year you learn a little more, you are able to correct. You don’t take that as an indictment of you as a person, but you say, wow, I learned something that now is actionable. I know how much gas I have in my car so I can make an educated decision about how I’m going to deal with that versus I’m running out of gas on the side of the road and I didn’t see this coming. I think we can all draw that analogy to the un-self-aware people that we know.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:37] So this isn’t just about looking through other people’s eyes, right? Like we just can’t glean total insight from — we can’t look at ourselves and introspect and get a total reflection, but looking at ourselves only through the eyes of others doesn’t show us the complete picture either. And that’s an important distinction because I think a lot of people go, “Oh, well, I’m very introspective, therefore I’m very self-aware.” Then they listen to this and they go, “Oh shoot. I’m not introspective anymore because that’s not helping. So let me just look at myself through the way other people see me according to my own filters and cognitive bias.” And then it’s like, well, that doesn’t work either.

[00:10:07] Let’s attack both of these separately though because of introspection, you’ve actually done some research about it and it’s not just ineffective. It’s actually harmful. The self-analyzers have more anxiety, less positive social experiences, more negative attitudes about themselves. And that actually makes a lot of sense because some of the most introspective people I know, it sounds like they’re self-aware, but then when you get them talking about themselves, you just go, wow, you’re kind of just self-loathing. I don’t think anybody really agrees with you. You know, some of these really introspective people, that life is meaningless, and you know, everyone’s smarter than me. It’s just kind of like watching a Woody Allen movie. It’s not really that accurate of a perception that other people have of that person, although with Woody, he might be the exception.

Tasha Eurich: [00:10:50] He might, he might. And you’re absolutely right. So if we even back up a second, I think it’s really important to establish what self-awareness really is as a baseline. And it took our research team almost a year to actually define what it was. And it was crazy to me because I sort of had this naive view of like, “Well, we’ll, you know, we’ll read some journal articles and we’ll find a consensus in there somewhere.” There was no consensus. And we read almost a thousand empirical journal articles to try to find what is this thing we call self-awareness. I’ll save you all the headaches that we had, but it ended up being quite a process. And what we arrived at was that people who are self-aware have two types of independent self-knowledge, and that’s really important. We can come back to that.

[00:11:33] Number one is they understand who they are on the inside. They know what makes them tick, they know their values, they understand their patterns of behavior, and so on, kind of how they fit into the world — by the way, that’s something we named internal self-awareness. But they also understand how other people see them — something we named external self-awareness. And what was so fascinating to me was I had this assumption once we discovered these kinds of two criteria for being self-aware, I figured if people have one, they would be more likely to have the other. But we found — for you statistics nerds that are listening — a 0.0 correlation between people’s overall internal and external self-awareness.

[00:12:16] And it was this moment of like, wait a minute, what does this mean? But if you start to think about this, I think many of us are these people, and if we aren’t these people, we might know one of these people. But we kind of come to two categories. There are the people that, to your point, are very focused on internal self-awareness, know who they are. Introspection might be one of their habits or their practices, but they have no idea how they’re coming across. I call these people introspectors. Their relationships might be limited. They might have a ceiling on their success because they’re not getting everything done they want to get done. But on the other hand, is an equally bad problem, just an opposite one, is the people who are focused on external self-awareness, but not internal. They’re so focused on knowing how other people see them or thinking how other people will react to their choices, doing things often to serve others and make them happy, but they haven’t done the work and they don’t have the clarity to make decisions in their own best interest and for their own fulfillment and happiness.

[00:13:19] And so it sort of makes sense that these two things, they’re almost parallel journeys we have to take in self-awareness. I think that’s really instructive for us about how do I start to break this off is which of these two areas of self-knowledge do I have more room for improvement in? And so that was what we discovered. What was so fascinating was those two types of self-knowledge had no relationship to each other.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:00] When we say it has no relationship to each other, does that mean that some people do one but not the other? Or does that just mean that people who do one don’t necessarily have more of the other?

Tasha Eurich: [00:13:53] I think both, but sort of empirically it would be the second one. It would be that none of us can operate under the assumption that just because we have one, we will automatically have the other. And what we’ve discovered in our research is, you know, not only do most people misunderstand what self-awareness is, but many of those most commonly accepted pieces of wisdom for us to get there are wrong. And so part of what the process becomes then is again, how can I spend as little time as possible and get a big pay off to improve both my internal and external self-awareness? What we’ve discovered in our research is those two types of self-knowledge require different tools and different processes.

[00:14:34] So it’s one of those things that I think if we just work on them both, it’s a little more practical to say, is there one that maybe I haven’t emphasized as much and I can focus on that? But I think, either way, we’ve got most of us, again, have a little more work to do than we think.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:49] Yeah. And I want to get into some of the practicals on how we can improve this because — well, first of all, what are the benefits? It seems so obvious. Like everybody wants to be self-aware, but then you’d go, why? Well, because don’t you want to know yourself? And it’s like, then it just sort of trails off into what’s for lunch because I mean, we’ve all met that person who’s blissfully un-self-aware and it’s probably bad for them. I don’t have data; you do. But there’s a part of me that’s like, God, that must be so nice. You just walk around thinking everyone likes you when you’re a complete ass, or like you just think you’re so — it’s those people who watch something once on TV and they’re like an expert in it, and no amount of PhDs can surround them and go, “Here’s why this is wrong.” They’re totally right. Everybody else is an idiot. And you know they have consequences for this in their life, but they just don’t seem to have any notion of what those are and they’re blissfully unaware. I assume that catches up with us at some point and therefore it’s bad for you, right?

Tasha Eurich: [00:15:49] Yes. And that is a pretty clear finding from decades and decades of research that’s been done on what happens if you are un-self-aware in some form or fashion. But I actually think it’s more important to look at what are the benefits of having the skill. So instead of talking about why it’s bad to not have the skill, what would it mean for your listeners if they improve their self-awareness 10 to 15 percent, even just keeping the bar low?

[00:16:17] A lot of amazing things happen, and this is all backed by research. So before this process started, I was curious, you know, I thought self-awareness was important, but I was ready for the data to tell us whether that was right or not. I am more confident than I ever was before that it’s sort of the foundational skill for success in the 21st century, particularly for leaders, but really for all humans of every kind.

[00:16:43] So what the data tells us on self-awareness is that people who are self-aware, they’re more promotable, they perform better at work, they get more clients, they build better relationships. They’re better leaders, they’re more innovative, they’re more confident, they’re better communicators. One more that is actually kind of amazing to me is there’s a financial impact of self-awareness. There’ve been a couple of studies that have shown the companies made up of large numbers of un-self-aware employees were 79 percent more likely to show poor financial returns. So if you think about the sum total of unawareness, that’s a kind of a good example. Another one has shown that leaders who are self-aware tend to lead more profitable companies.

[00:17:30] The reason I share that is because I think I hear there’s a lot of people that say, “Well, you know, self-awareness sounds nice, but I’ve got a business to run,” and part of what I help my clients see is that there’s actually almost nothing that you can have a more across the board improvement by working on than your self-awareness, but it’s actually not just at work. It’s at home as well. So people who are self-aware are happier in their marriages. They have stronger platonic relationships. They even raise less narcissistic children. It’s such powerful stuff, and it’s something that I think more of us should focus on.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:03] That’s really good news for people like me who are so self-aware and very, very humble.

Tasha Eurich: [00:18:07] I mean, it’s really convenient, right? You just say, “Yep, that’s me. I’m nailing it.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:12] Is there a scientific term or a statistical term for something that — a concept that works in one way, but not the other? Because here’s what I’m going for. A lot of people will go, “Well, since I’m wealthy and my company is successful, it must mean that I’m self-aware.” And I would imagine you’d go, “Well, no. If you’re more self-aware, you can have a more successful company, but because you have money, it doesn’t go the other way and mean this, too.” Because I think a lot of these guys who are saying things like this, like “I’m so self-aware and I’m so humble,” and all this stuff, and “It’s great. It’s such an important skill,” they’re looking at their own financial results or their own life results and they’re like, “Well, this must be the case, because look at how successful I am. I have a jet. So it’s got to be because I’m self-aware because I decided that I wanted that and everything I want, I get.”

Tasha Eurich: [00:18:58] And I work with very, very successful, high-level executives, mostly in mid to large-sized companies who often say the same thing at the beginning of our work together. Typically what it comes down to is two things. On a good day, you’re leaving something on the table. If you’ve had X amount of financial success, how much more could you have? Again, if you improve your self-awareness just incrementally. But I think the second possibility, and I’ve seen this happen, is you’re successful until the moment that you’re not. You look at sort of everything that’s been in the headlines in the last couple of years, and people making one un-self-aware decision or a series of un-self-aware decisions that effectively end their career.

[00:19:42] And typically it’s not that dramatic, but some of our self-awareness unicorns, again, these people who didn’t start out as self-aware, but who became highly self-aware, mentioned examples where, you know, “I was in this high-powered job and I was killing it. And then one day I came in and I got fired and I have no idea why.” And I don’t say that necessarily to strike fear in the hearts of all of us, but I think it’s a thought experiment. It’s like if I wasn’t as self-aware as I think I am, would I really know? And the power in that is saying there’s always more to know. That’s what our unicorns taught me is somebody likened it to exploring space. No matter how much we know about space, there’s always more to know, and that knowledge is always going to be valuable to us. There’s never going to be this moment for any of us where we say, “Okay, I’m done. I’m good. I’m self-aware. I’ve got a plane.” Right? But that’s what makes it so exciting I think.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:33] I’d love to go back a little bit because the idea that introspection turns out to be bad for us, I think we need to sort of highlight and circle that a little bit more. So introspection doesn’t necessarily make us more self-aware. Why is that the case?

Tasha Eurich: [00:20:46] This was one of the first things we discovered in our research program, and I had put together what I thought was a really straightforward study. It was about 300 people. We asked them how much time they spent reflecting. Was it hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and so on? And then we measured all of these indicators of how meaningful and fulfilled of a life they were experiencing. So were they happy? Were they stressed? Were they anxious? Did they feel in control of their lives? Did they like their job and their relationships?

[00:21:18] And the results were so surprising to me that I actually thought I had coded the data wrong. So I reran it and reran it and reran it. And the pattern was the same. And what I found was the people who spent the most time introspecting, kind of examining their thoughts and feelings and motives, were the worst off. They were stressed and anxious and depressed. They didn’t feel in control of their lives. They tended not to like their jobs as much or the relationships they had. And I thought, what is going on? At first to your point earlier, I thought maybe this should be a book about blissful ignorance. Maybe self-awareness is actually really bad. This was another pretty tough nut to crack because it flew in the face of everything I personally thought I knew about the skill and the value. And as we peeled back the onion a little bit, we started to see a couple of things that made it make sense.

[00:22:10] One thing we discovered — can I nerd out one of my favorite psychology studies ever? Okay. So this was done at your alma mater at the University of Michigan. Go, Blue! And it was in the 1970s, and there were two researchers who basically set up a card table outside of this grocery store and set four identical pairs of pantyhose out on the table. And what they did is they asked the passersby to come by the table and pick their favorite in these identical pairs of pantyhose. And what we know basically from consumer psychology is that people tend to prefer whatever product is on the right of a display. And that’s exactly what happens. They picked pair D, you know, the pair all the way to the right at a rate of four to one.

[00:22:52] Now, why were they doing this? So they asked the participants. “Okay, so it’s interesting that you picked this pair. Could you tell us more, could you do a little bit of introspection about why you chose the pair you chose?” And people came up with these really elaborate explanations. They said, “Oh, well, can’t you see it’s the better elasticity, or the color is better, or the manufacturing is just of a higher quality.” But again, four identical pairs of pantyhose. So then when the researchers told them that these were, in fact, four identical pairs of pantyhose, most of the participants refused to believe them.

[00:23:27] Think about this! What happened? Let’s deconstruct this. All of these participants had been asked to introspect. To say, I made a choice and I am now going to think about the reasoning behind that choice. Everyone immediately could find a reason that they were extremely confident about. But they were just as wrong as they were confident. There was not a single participant who said, “You know, people tend to prefer products on the right, which is why I selected this particular pair.” What researchers have found, you know, kind of flying in the face of what Sigmund Freud, going back to the origins of psychology thought, was that no matter how much we try, we can’t access a lot of our unconscious thoughts and feelings and motives. So what happens is we start searching for answers about ourselves, we find something that feels true that very often isn’t because we just can’t access it, and then we latch onto it.

[00:24:20] And so that begins to make the process make sense. It’s like, okay, but then we started to ask, is introspection always bad? Is that just something we should stop doing if we want to be happier and more successful? And the good news, thankfully, was introspection can be effective, but most of us are doing it wrong.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:24:42] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Tasha Eurich. We’ll be right back.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:47] This episode is sponsored in part by Heineken 0.0 — Heineken 0.0, to be exact. Heineken 0.0 is an alcohol-free beer which actually still tastes like Heineken. 69 calories per can, a great choice if you want to skip the alcohol but still enjoy a beer. And January’s a great time for people to start thinking about resolutions — we’ve all made them; we’ve all broken them. Maybe you keep yours. You know what? Fine! You think you’re better than me? For many of us, that means no alcohol for a month, so if you’re doing Dry January, check out Heineken 0.0 and skip the booze this January.

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[00:25:44] This episode is also sponsored by DesignCrowd. Sure, building a business from the ground up might seem like second nature to you. Unfortunately, your company logo looks like it was scribbled and cran on the side of a cereal box by a sugar field kindergartener, and not in a good way, but it’s okay. DesignCrowd is on the scene to save the day. First, you go to designcrowd.com/jorda, D-E-S-I-G-N-C-R-O-W-D.com/jordan — you know DesignCrowd. That’s how you spell it — Slash Jordan and post a brief. You describe what you need. You might say, I need a bold company logo, preferably including the silhouette of a rocket ship that would look impressive on the side of our skyline defining office building. Next DesignCrowd invites 750,000 plus designers to respond to your request. And within hours you receive your first design, and over the next week, a typical project will receive 60 to more than a hundred different designs from designers around the world. You pick the one you like best to approve payment to the winning designer and proudly get to work updating your new logo wherever it appears — stationery, the side of an office building, whatever. And if you don’t like any of the 60 to a hundred-plus designs, you don’t have to be worried about that because DesignCrowd offers a complete money-back guarantee in case of this unlikely event. So Jason, tell them where they can get a deal on DesignCrowd.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:26:57] Right now, listeners of The Jordan Harbinger Show will receive up to $150 off their design project by going to designcrowd.com/jordan. That’s D-E-S-I-G-N-C-R-O-W-D.com/jordan or just enter promo code JORDAN when posting a project.

[00:27:11] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don’t forget we have a worksheet for today’s episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Tasha Eurich. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Tasha Eurich.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:50] I love the idea that you can just predict what people are going to choose based on where it’s placed. We’re so predictable as humans. Good Lord. It does seem like a cyclical issue because if you think you’re self-aware but you’re not, it just exacerbates the problem. Like, “Well, no, I’m self-aware.” “Well, no, you’re not.” “Well, prove it.” “Well, look at all these things you do.” “Well, that doesn’t mean anything. I’m self-aware because I decided that I am.” How do you end up convincing the people? Aside from telling them about the pantyhose study, how do you end up convincing the people you coach, these executives like, “Hey, actually you’re not?” It seems like not only are you fighting their ego, you’re fighting this conception where they’ve really convinced themselves that they’re self-aware.

Tasha Eurich: [00:28:27] And it seems like a fair assumption. These very powerful, very successful people who are at the top of their game. My job is to help successful people be more successful. So I’m not brought in when somebody is crashing and burning and failing, and that is a really important part of the process. Part of the way to look at it as this. So imagine that you are in a very high-profile position. Whatever you do for your company, there are going to be a lot of things by virtue of that powerful position that you will inherently not know.

[00:29:02] There’s a lot of research that shows a negative relationship between our self-awareness and how powerful we are. The sort of more prominent we become, the less self-aware we tend to be, even if we don’t start out as less self-aware. So what happens is nobody’s going to come up to the CEO and say, “You know, sir, I don’t think your five-year strategic vision is really a good one.” Where maybe as a first-line supervisor there might be a little bit more honesty built into that relationship. And so what I tell people is your team, your clients, your board are talking about how they see you and you have two choices. One of them is you can know what people are saying and therefore have control. Be able to make a decision. And by the way, you don’t have to respond, but you can if you want to. Or do you want to live in ignorance, which might feel great until there is a critical piece of information that you’re going to be missing that could really get in your way in a profound sense?

[00:30:02] And you know, it’s really interesting because I think sometimes when I start working with someone, there is a leap of faith that’s involved. I’m thinking of a gentleman who is running a $5 billion technology business that I am coaching currently, and he thought everything was great, and mostly it was. But there was one challenge that he was having that he was completely unaware of, and it was sort of a lack of effectiveness at connecting with people in a more informal way. He would kind of walk into a meeting and immediately start talking about what they were there to discuss. He would ask people for project updates. He would report out on his expectations and so on. And what that was doing in the long term is it was actually making them less comfortable to talk to him honestly. And you know, you sort of play that out and you think about, well, if they don’t trust him, if they don’t feel comfortable, they’re not going to provide critical information that he doesn’t have because they won’t feel comfortable doing so. And so that was one of the things that he really came out of this thinking about, which is perceptions at that level, the perceptions other people have of you, are almost more important than anything else. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work on your own internal self-awareness, but at that level, any successful prominent person is going to have to work that much harder to learn the truth.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:24] Wow. So it’s sort of — is self-reinforcing the right word? Or isolating anyway, right? Because now you’re at the top and now you have less input from other people, so you’re less likely to get an accurate picture. It’s like when CEOs joke about how their kids are the ones they learn the most from because nobody else has the balls to be like, “Your shoes are ugly.” And they’re like, “What? No. Nobody else has said anything.” And it’s like, “Well, yeah, you’re Bill Gates. No one’s going to be like, ‘Hey, your shoes are ugly.’ Come on.”

Tasha Eurich: [00:31:51] That’s it. Yeah. There’s a story of a CEO I know who was in a very, very powerful position, huge Fortune 100 company, and he had this joke that he would always tell to everyone and they would be rolling on the floor laughing. He thought, “Man, this joke always kills every time.” And then he wasn’t the CEO anymore, and he started telling the joke, and no one laughed. And so it’s almost impossible at that level to distinguish how much your power is influencing the interactions you’re having. And that’s why, you know, having a coach, especially if you’re at the top of your game, can be really transformational.

[00:32:27] I literally get paid to tell really successful, really powerful people the truth when everyone else is afraid to. And again, it comes back to what don’t you know? You don’t know what you don’t know. And the question is: how much would it transform your approach if you had that information and could decide about it?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:45] There’s something to be said for status in any interaction. Back when I was in my 20s, something that we had noticed when we were, I guess, for lack of a better word, teaching people body language and nonverbal communication, especially in a dating scenario and dating context, was a lot of people would ask questions like, “Why does this dumb guy who’s athletic, people think he’s funny, but no guys do? Just the women.” And I’m like, “They don’t necessarily think he’s funny. They’re just laughing at his jokes because of a status thing,” and they’re like, “Oh, it makes more sense now.” Because the guy’s not — at least categorically — you know, not funny. You don’t think of a jock and think like, “He’s so funny,” but it doesn’t matter. If you want to look for a high-status person in any room, you look at the person who is getting the most laughs, the most smiles, frankly, the person who is being asked the most questions a lot of times. But laughing and humor is like a status thing much more than it is an actual logical or emotional communication — unless you’re looking at comedy or something like that.

Tasha Eurich: [00:33:42] Exactly. And again, if you are in a position of power, it becomes really hard to disentangle. And I think it’s just not in your long term best interest to assume that you can take everything at face value. I told the joke, people laughed, therefore I’m funny. But I also think even for people who aren’t in positions of power, we think about the amount of information we’re keeping from the people that we’re closest to because it’s hard to talk about. I tell the story in my book Insight about a time when one of my friends who I’d known for 10 years told me that even though I’d come a long way, all of my friends thought that I was really high maintenance when I first met them, and literally, not a single person had ever told me that. And it was hard to hear. It was very hard to hear. But at the end of the day, knowing that, to me, it’s always better than the alternative, because when we know and when we do that work to find out how we’re really being seen, it empowers us to fulfill our potential and to make decisions in our own success and fulfillment and happiness. And who doesn’t want that, right?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:46] Well, yeah, of course. I would imagine it’s gotta be so hard to take this input. I hate to beat this point to death here, but back to introspection and why it doesn’t necessarily work. When we examine the causes of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, often we ask ourselves why questions. This is from an article I think you had on TED.com. We tend to search for the easiest and most plausible answers. Generally, once we’ve found one or two, we stop looking. This can be the result of our innate confirmation bias, which prompts us to lean towards reasons that confirm our existing beliefs. So what’s going on here? We’re asking the wrong types of questions when we introspect, is that what’s going wrong here?

Tasha Eurich: [00:35:22] I’m glad we came back to that, because that’s really important. In short, yes. What we discovered as we peeled back this onion of is introspection bad? We found that the mistake that most of us make is really, it comes down to one word in terms of the questions that we’re asking ourselves. Most of the time when we’re trying to understand who we are, we ask why questions. So you have a fight with your spouse and you say, “Gosh, why is it so hard to communicate with this person?” Or you don’t get a promotion and you say, “Why didn’t I get this?” Or you’re even trying to figure out “Why do I want to buy this company?” You’re really asking these why questions with great intentions, but going back to what we talked about earlier, not only are we not going to find those answers, we just can’t access so many of those things. It’s going to lead us down the wrong path and often make us really kind of depressed and powerless in the process.

[00:36:17] So what we decided to do — just like we did in most cases — was when we found something surprising that didn’t make sense, we went back to our interview transcripts with our self-awareness unicorns. Because we knew these people had figured it out, even if what they were doing was flying in the face of common wisdom. We started to look at how they were asking introspective questions of themselves. What we discovered was the word why — this is that of hundreds of pages of interview transcripts — the word why appeared less than 150 times, but the word what appeared more than a thousand times. At first, I thought, you know, this is just semantics. How much more different of a question could it be if I ask what instead of why? But it really came alive with a couple of examples.

[00:37:02] So one of our unicorns, as an example, was a marketing manager, and he had this brand new boss that he just, he could not stand. They were like oil and water. He was sort of at the end of his rope, but where most of us would have asked an introspective question somewhere along the lines of “Why are we like oil and water?” He asked himself a very different question with a very different outcome. He asked, “What can I do to show her that I’m the best person for this job?” And immediately you can see the different path that took him down. So why are we like oil and water? Well, A, it doesn’t really matter. B, I’m going to find an answer that feels right that probably isn’t. And C, it’s probably just going to drag me down and unfocus me on the problem. But if I say “What can I do?” it’s more action-oriented. It’s more logical. It’s more future-looking.

[00:37:50] We saw countless examples of this gentleman who had made a mistake and bought the wrong company. He bought the company and it basically crumbled at his hands. He didn’t say, “Why did this happen?” He said, “What can I learn from this so that I don’t ever make this mistake again?” And so as I go all around the world, and I’m so lucky to talk to so many leaders and work with people to help them reframe their self-awareness, that’s been one of the most powerful lessons is what we can do. One word change. Swapping out what for why can mean the difference between true, actual insight from introspection and leading ourselves down that rabbit hole that we talked about earlier.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:29] I get this. So if we ask “Why are we like oil and water?” the answer then is like, “Well, he’s inaccessible and emotionally stilted and I’m too nice.” Or something like that.

Tasha Eurich: [00:38:41] Or you can get down a rumination spiral, which is like, “Why can’t I manage to make any of my relationships work? The same thing is happening with this person.” And that’s not productive either.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:53] Right. “I’m a big loser and I’m never going to be successful in any corporate situation.” Well, that explains it. I’m unemployable.

Tasha Eurich: [00:38:59] Done with that. Nailed it.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:00] Yeah. So then we ask, “What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Or probably doesn’t even have to be that self-helpy. I mean, not that that’s particularly self-helpy, but that’s like a very useful question. A lot of us who are going to start out saying, “What did I do wrong in this particular situation?” Which isn’t great, but also not super terrible. Like maybe, “Oh, well what it was is I took the first job I could get because I was afraid of going broke. I probably shouldn’t do that anymore.” Something like that. There’s a lesson there instead of just like a post to attach yourself with — well, you flagellate, self-flagellate and whip yourself into a froth or punish yourself about something you did in the past. So this evidence shows that translating our emotions into language, as you say it in the article here, versus simply experiencing them, that can stop our brains from activating our fight-or-flight command centers. This helps us stay in control. So instead of just going, “Oh, my gosh, I’m unemployable; here’s this catastrophe scenario that I’m now playing out in my head,” we come up with a plan to change our course of action. Or something that we can keep in mind for the future so that we don’t make the same mistake.

Tasha Eurich: [00:40:07] That’s it. And you just zeroed in on what I think is one of the most powerful what questions, especially in times of stress, it’s as simple as “What am I feeling right now?” And there’s a lot of evidence that that question activates a different part of our brain. So if we’re asking ourselves why questions, what scientists have discovered is that kind of gives our amygdala, our fight-or-flight response center, free rein to wreak havoc over all of our decisions. But asking a what question activates the part of our brain that’s more in charge of executive function and logic and being reasonable. And just that question “What am I feeling right now?” can give us a moment to kind of override what’s happening in our brain so that we can be more solution-focused versus getting so spun up in the problem that we are not helpful to ourselves or others.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:58] Are there any exceptions to this ask-what-not-why rule? Is there any place where asking why makes sense?

Tasha Eurich: [00:41:06] I get asked that question a lot, and I think at the end of the day, we shouldn’t ever be too rigid about things like this. I’ve had people kind of create why questions that I think really are what questions. They say, “Isn’t that a good question?” And I say, “Well, maybe,” but I actually think that if you take a step back and you are focusing on “Are the questions I’m asking myself propelling me forward to action and insight, or are they misdirecting me and getting me stuck?” And what we’ve discovered is that what versus why, and I found it really powerful personally, since I’ve learned it from our unicorns, it makes a big difference. If we can even be aware of the questions that we’re asking ourselves, that is a huge improvement. But yeah, again, I think just like in psychology, we can never say anything is 100 percent, but it was a powerful enough effect that I think it’s worth paying attention to.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:01] One thing I loved in your research was that all age groups have shown marked increases in narcissism over the last 30 years. Because all of these Boomers are like, “Ah, the young people, they’re all narcissists now,” and then even Millennials are like, “Man, Gen Z,” and Gen Z is probably going to be like, “iGen is just insufferable,” but the truth is we’re all freaking insufferable these days. Right?

Tasha Eurich: [00:42:23] We are. And the Cult of Self is a surprisingly consistent phenomenon all around the world that is tempting us to become more self-absorbed and therefore less self-aware. You mentioned this, it’s really important to emphasize that this is not just my generation, the Millennials. This goes back since the 1970s and the 1980s.

[00:42:47] So there was one study done with a million high school seniors and 25 percent of them put themselves in the top one percent in their ability to get along with others, and only about two percent rated themselves as below average. A lot of times if I’m speaking about this, I’ll ask the audience, “When was this study done?” And they say, “Ah, 2010, 2005.” The answer is 1976 and there are similar examples that just over the last 30-plus years, we’re not all narcissists. That would be incorrect. But we are, as a whole, gaining more narcissistic tendencies, and that really flies in the face of our self-awareness journey. If we’re self-absorbed, it means we think we’re awesome regardless of the objective reality versus being self-aware, which is knowing the objective reality and kind of choosing to accept ourselves anyway.

[00:43:42] And that’s a really important thing for us to think about is if you were a member of the Cult of Self, how would you know?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:47] That’s a really good point. You wouldn’t, because you’re not paying attention to other people anyways. But I think that there’s something to be — what are we going to have to do eventually to redefine what narcissism means? Because now we all have it. I don’t know where this leads.

Tasha Eurich: [00:44:00] Hopefully not, but I think it’s a meaningful question.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:03] Yeah, jeez. One of your recommendations then is to be an informer. When left to our own devices, most people are meformers. What does this mean? How do we utilize this?

Tasha Eurich: [00:44:12] So the data are pretty compelling. If you think about on a daily basis, how much time, when you’re talking, are you spending talking about yourself? And on average, the answer is about 60 percent in real life and then when you go online, it jumps to about 80 percent. So a meformer is someone who intentionally or unintentionally is focused on themselves. You know, everybody has that Instagram person who is posting pictures of their meals every day, or that annoying coworker who finds a way to slide in an award they won into every conversation. That is antithetical to self-awareness because this goes back to some of our research that the highly self-aware also tend to be the most humble, and there’s a paradox there. It’s like, if I see myself clearly, it allows me to see and focus on other people.

[00:45:05] With our self-awareness unicorns, one of the findings that was really shocking to me in the context of all of this was when we looked at how much time they spent on social media. And I was expecting it would be much less time. These are these evolved, brilliant, clear-thinking people. But we found that they actually spent 30 percent more time online than everybody else. So then we said, okay, what is going on here? And what we discovered was they were spending more time online, but they were spending it very differently. So whereas most of us, especially online, are using social media as a meformer vehicle, they were using social media to focus on other people. So posting a beautiful photo they took that they thought might make other people happy, or a useful article that would be helpful to others, or a funny joke that would brighten someone’s day, their entire lens that they look at social media through is not about them. It’s about other people.

[00:46:10] So that’s the distinction, the meformer is “Here’s what’s going on with me on and offline.” And an informer is focusing on improving other people’s day-to-day experiences. And as much as we can do that, that is kind of the direct antidote to the Cult of Self. And one challenge I often give to people is the next time you go to post something on social media, or the next time you start to tell a story in your group of friends, think about your motive for doing that. I started asking myself that on social media when I first was discovering this with our research team, and I found that almost every time the secret motive I had was a meformer motive — and we convince ourselves that we don’t, right? But what’s at the heart of this? What am I trying to accomplish? I think we should all ask ourselves that a little bit more.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:47] I find this tricky as somebody who is supposed to be self-promoting a lot on social media, so a lot of people will go, “Why do you only post on Instagram like once every month?” And the answer is because it’s actually really hard for me to get into a mindset where I can sit down, post a picture of me sitting next to Kobe Bryant or something and be like, “Look how cool I am,” which, no matter how you structure your caption, is exactly what you’re freaking doing. And so the conventional wisdom is, “Oh, talk about something you learned so that other people learn from it.” And I’m like, “Okay, how do I do that?” And it’s a whole thing. I’ve got to sit down and think about that, whereas some people — and I was up to a point kind of jealous of these folks — I would be like, “Man, look at this person just filming themselves eating spaghetti with a celebrity in the background, and they’re just with reckless abandon, and then they’re having no problem. Talk about how great their life is all the time, every day, 17 Instagram stories before lunch.” But now I realize maybe that’s not super healthy to be able to do that as a reflex without thinking. Maybe there is something to be said for not having an immediate skill set that you can deploy without even thinking that just advertises your BS on Instagram or wherever.

Tasha Eurich: [00:48:14] I think you’re right. And like anything, there’s probably a good middle ground. One of the things I’ve experienced as I’ve been strongly encouraged to get on Instagram and trying my best is sometimes I overthink it, right? Like, just like we shouldn’t be posting everything without considering “What am I trying to do here?” We shouldn’t be so focused on that, that it is paralyzing. And that’s actually what I found is, in a very similar way as you, I definitely want to be somebody who practices what I preach, and social media is set up in some ways to be just a meformer platform. I definitely post less because of that. I think sometimes to my own detriment, because the people that follow us want to know what’s going on and so I think the happy medium is a good place to live if we can.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:57] What about our kids? How do we get our kids — I mean, I have a three-month-old, and he’s either completely self-absorbed or not self-absorbed at all; I’m still deciding — but how do we get them when they’re older to think more of others and be more informer than meformer? Are there things that parents do wrong that we can stop doing? That might be a good place to start.

Tasha Eurich: [00:49:17] Let me give you one thing that is really powerful. So there was a study where the researchers asked a bunch of parents of young children to answer: “Is your child more special than the other children?” And then six months later they went and they actually measured how self-absorbed the children were behaving from an objective standpoint. They asked them questions like, “Do you deserve more than other kids deserve?” And what they found was the parents that said their child was special tended to have children who behaved in a more self-absorbed, narcissistic manner.

[00:49:51] But what they found was when the parents, instead of emphasizing the specialness of their child, emphasized the love that they have towards that child and showed them warmth — so instead of saying, “You are the smartest kid in the class,” you would say, “I love you and I believe in you” — and that small change of warmth versus specialness, those kids tended to have not just less self-absorbed behaviors, but they were more self-accepting. So that’s the holy grail, right? It’s being self-accepting without having an overly optimistic view of your contributions. So I think if parents can make that one change, what the research shows is it has a pretty powerful impact.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:34] So we just reinforce their self-esteem, but don’t do that necessarily to the detriment of other people. That sounds so obvious and yet I’m totally not sure how to do that.

Tasha Eurich: [00:50:43] It’s the Cult of Self. It has a hold of us in our parenting just as much as it does in our social media use. And I think we hold up specialness as the holy grail. We think about reality TV or even the self-esteem movement, which we could probably do a whole ‘nother podcast on. As it turns out, self-esteem is actually not that helpful and many have shown sort of more harmful than it is helpful. And so it just requires us to be aware of those gut instincts that we have to praise based on “You’re the specialist kid” versus “I love you the most.” I mean, it’s not terribly hard to do, but I think it starts with that awareness.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:51:22] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Tasha Eurich. We’ll be right back after this.

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Jason DeFillippo: [00:54:57] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don’t forget the worksheet for today’s episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you are listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Tasha Eurich.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:26] How do we get other people to give us actual feedback? We sort of talked about this with the CEOs and things like that, but how do we get people to give us good feedback instead of just nice compliments? Well, I’m a little slightly afraid to actually put this into action, which is probably a good sign, but I think that a lot of people that know us well should be giving us more feedback, but also complete strangers are probably a good way to do that because they don’t really have any consequences maybe from making it. Like if a waitress came up and said, “Oh, you kind of smell.” I mean, yeah, it would affect her tip, but maybe that’s a bad example. What if a complete stranger was like, “Oh, you kind of smell.” I’d be like, “Well, thanks for telling me. I’m in a group of people. Nobody else has said a damn thing.” And then I notice that I do stink and it’s like, “Damn it, everybody, why didn’t you say anything?” “Oh, we didn’t want to embarrass you; we wanted to be polite.” And it’s like, “No, I’ve been walking around stinky for three weeks or three months, or my whole life.” I don’t know. That’s a really easy example, but what if you’re just a bad leader or a bad communicator? A bad boss, a bad partner? You know, what’s going on here? How do we get this information out in the open? Very rarely is it going to be something that’s such a life-changing, “Oh, it turns out you’re a horrible person.” It’s going to be something small. Like, “Hey, you should brush your teeth in the morning.” And it’s like, “Oh, crap. I thought I was getting away with just using mouthwash. It turns out everybody’s backing up when they talk to me. I had no idea why. I thought I was just loud.”

Tasha Eurich: [00:56:46] There are two elements to this sort of objective fact that none of us are getting the feedback that we probably should be getting. So on the side of our loved ones and the people that know us the best, there’s a lot of evidence that they just are not going to volunteer that information. And it doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t mean they don’t love us or want us to be happy and successful. It really goes back to our hardwiring as human beings. If you think about our ancestors, we had to work together to survive when we were living in caves and running away from predators. And if we did anything to upset the social apple cart, we literally risked — to use a more modern term — being voted off the island, which in many cases would mean certain death. This is tough stuff, and we are hardwired to have those instincts to withhold that information. In the same way that we pull our hands away from a hot stove, we are hesitant to present information — especially to people we love and appreciate — that is going to potentially reflect poorly on us or upset them.

[00:57:52] And so I think part of the process there is to acknowledge that. For me, like when I gave the example of my friend who said that I was very high-maintenance when I first met all of them 10 years ago, my first instinct was to be angry with them for not telling me. But as I’ve discovered just in the research with this, it just sort of is what it is. It doesn’t mean that they’re not willing to help us. It means that they’re probably just not going to volunteer it. So we’ll come back to that. But the second barrier or obstacle is ourselves. A lot of people say that I’m kind of a mind reader. People think I’m psychic, but it’s really just science. So there’s a pattern that I’ve discovered that prevents most of us from seeking feedback. And this is mostly with, you know, again, very senior-level executives, but I think it’s true of everybody. Most of us wonder how people see us. You sort of think about it like, “Oh, I wonder what my team says about me when I’m not in the room,” or “I wonder what kind of partner I really am to my significant other.” But we almost never ask and what’s behind that if you just strip away everything, what it comes down to — you actually mentioned it — is that we’re worried we might not actually be liked or respected or valued by any of these people.

Like if I ask my husband, “How can I be a better wife?” that he might say, “You know what? Now that you asked, I don’t want to be married anymore.” Or your employee says, “You know, you’re probably the worst boss ever.” And we think that by asking these questions, it’s going to reveal the secrets the other people are successfully keeping from us. And if I look at my personal journey of self-awareness, I can tell you about a tool to get more feedback from the people that know us and love us the most is, it usually is little things. And very often, there are positive discoveries. We learn things that other people see us doing that they appreciate that we don’t even know we’re doing. So this isn’t a matter of, “I’m going to find out all the things people don’t like about me.” It’s really just, “I’m trying to get another set of perspectives to go along with my own so that I can have a more holistic understanding of who I am.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:51] What is this Dinner of Truth? Can we go through this? This is such a great exercise, but I want to learn how to go through this without losing my shit.

Tasha Eurich: [00:59:58] Yeah, I think that’s a good goal. So the Dinner of Truth is pretty simple. You find someone who you’re close to with whom you want to improve your relationship and you invite them to dinner. I say dinner because if you want an adult beverage, that is a pretty good time to have one. But in the dinner, you ask them the following question: “What do I do that is most annoying to you?” And then you listen and then you bask in the insights. The first time I heard about this exercise was from a communications professor named Josh Misner, and the first time I heard it, you’re picturing having your own Dinner of Truth when you first hear of this, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I said, “How could I possibly do that?” And you know, there’s a lot of tricks that we can use to make it a more successful conversation. But I’m going to share the example of the first time I did this because I think it’s really instructive about how our worst fears are almost never realized and that’s, I think, what the biggest obstacle is for us to actually do this. And I would never ask my readers or my clients to do anything that I hadn’t done myself. So I thought, okay, I learned about this tool. I’m going to try it.

[01:01:03] So I intentionally picked my most crotchety friends, like the person that I knew was just going to be like, “Oh, I am so glad you asked. Here’s the litany of things.” And it was my friend Mike, and leading up to the conversation, I sort of made up all these things in my head about what I thought he was going to say and I was all spun up about it. I thought, okay, I’m just going to suck it up. I’m just going to do it. And so we’re sitting there and I asked him the question. He thought for a minute, sort of preparing his response, and he said, “Well, here’s what I’ll offer you. I love you in person, but I hate you on social media.” And I went, “Wow, tell me more please, Mike.” And what he communicated to me was that in person, I am an informer and on social media, I was not getting it right. I was meforming. He said, “Not only is it not who you are, but I find it just annoying. And I wonder if any of your readers or anybody else feels this way too.”

[01:02:00] And here’s what I love about that is: it wasn’t an indictment of who I am. He expressed it with love and support, and we actually spent a lot of the time talking about what I could do differently. And probably most importantly, it was something that I got to decide if I wanted to change and it was something that I now knew, so I had the power to make this change in an area that, you know, who’s to say what would’ve happened if I hadn’t gotten that feedback from him. So I think part of this like so much of self-awareness involves a little bit of a leap of faith. I have readers all over the world who have had the courage to do this. They say that sometimes the surprises are even positive ones.

[01:02:41] Like I had a reader who sent me an email a couple of months ago who did this with her five-year-old son. Who knows what a kid is going to say when you asked them that question and her son said something to the effect of, “Mommy, it really annoys me that you don’t ever take any time for yourself. You’re always taking care of me, or you’re taking care of daddy and it makes me worry about you.” There is no question that whatever we’re going to hear is useful, but almost every time what we hear is not a reflection of our worst fears.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:09] How do we know someone’s not just projecting all of their crap onto us? Because there are some people where I’m like I have crotchety friends, and then I’m like, well, wait a minute. Whenever I ask them for feedback, they’re always like, “You do this!” And I’m like, “That’s literally what everyone says you do.” And then I get other feedback from people that’s like, “You’d never do that. What are you talking about? That’s him that does it.” Do I have to just like background investigate all their feedback or that person in general before I do this, because sometimes our crotchety friends, they just push their issues on other people!

Tasha Eurich: [01:03:37] Let’s turn to our unicorns, because there’s another surprising finding in this. When we interviewed them and asked them: “Who do you get feedback from?” “How do you process feedback?” “How do you decide what you’re going to do about it?” I was expecting them to say, “Oh, gosh, I love getting feedback from everyone. Any time someone offers me feedback, I listen to it, I hear it, I act on it.” And what we learned actually was the opposite, is that almost all of our unicorns had about three to five people that they regularly asked for feedback from, and they were really picky and they basically had to fit two criteria.

[01:04:12] So one was they had to believe that person had their best interest at heart. And number two is they had to believe that person would tell them the truth, even if it was hard. So we named them loving critics for that reason. But even if somebody fits both of those criteria, to your point, what they tell us is not necessarily going to be the be-all, end-all truth. No matter what, it’s always going to be their perception, which can be clouded by their stuff that gets in the way. So what they told us was, if I get feedback, especially if it’s unsolicited feedback from some random person — everybody has had this happen; I call it drive-by feedback — they walk up to you at the end of the meeting. You don’t even really know this person. They say, “Can I give you some feedback?” Especially if it’s something that you haven’t heard before or you have a hypothesis maybe based on their stuff instead of yours. That’s where you activate those loving critics. You go back to them and you say, “Somebody told me that I was overbearing in a meeting today. I know that you’ll always tell me the truth and you have when I have needed you to. Is that something you’ve seen me do?” And it’s so simple, right? It’s so simple to get feedback on your feedback, but I think most of us don’t do it. We either accept it as gospel or we push it away because we decide it’s about that person and not about us instead of treating it as kind of a research question. So that’s what I would suggest.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:32] That makes sense. We have sort of a reality check on that situation. That does make sense to me to have that. It’s funny, I got a YouTube comment, which is never a good place to get feedback, but I got a YouTube comment yesterday and somebody was talking about me with a guest and they’re like, “The problem here is you’re not a clear communicator.” And then they wrote like one paragraph with no punctuation and random capitals throughout the whole paragraph. And I thought, “Yeah, I don’t know if that’s really the problem, having done this for 13 years, never gotten that feedback and then getting it once from somebody who can’t spell, but okay.” Usually, though, it’s not as clear that you shouldn’t listen to someone. If somebody who comes up and they’ve got a PhD and you’re at a science conference and they give you a bit of feedback, and you go, “Oh, man, maybe that’s true.” And then it’s like, “That’s her feedback for everybody, and non-ironically, that’s what everyone says about her too,” and it’s like, “Got it. Okay. Self-awareness.” Is there something we can do every day that will help us become self-aware? Because consistency, for me anyway, seems to be a lot easier than like, “Do all these big things like dinners all the time.” Is there something I can do that’s like a daily check-in, maybe? Or is that wishful thinking?

Tasha Eurich: [01:06:38] No! Again, this goes back to what our unicorns were able to do seemed impossible, which is to be highly self-aware with overall less time invested. And so that was part of what I wanted to answer is I’ve got all these clients who are busy, successful people. They don’t have time to go to therapy once a week unless they have made time. But what can they do in five minutes or 10 minutes? And as it turns out, a lot. Almost every unicorn we talked to had some type of daily check-in that they did at the end of the day. So whether you’re driving home from work, whether you’re getting into bed and kind of trying to shake off the day, they asked themselves the equivalent of basically three questions.

[01:07:17] So the first is “What went well today?” The second is “What didn’t go so well?” And the third is, “How can I be smarter tomorrow?” And what I love about this, besides the fact that it doesn’t take too much time and is therefore sustainable, it allows us to proactively introspect without falling into a lot of those traps that we talked about before. We’re not asking “Why did this happen?” You’re just saying what went well, what didn’t go well. It’s a what question. “What can I do to be smarter tomorrow?” And I’m a pragmatist. We do have unicorns that said, “I ask myself this question every day,” but if the rest of us mere mortals can ask it more days than we don’t, that’s when you start to look at the incremental progress we can make over weeks and months and years. It can be really incredible. So it’s not out of reach for any of us.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:09] By the way, nobody needs to be furiously writing. We’ll include all the practical stuff in the worksheet for this episode, which is available in the show notes, of course. You’ve got another idea here. Compare and contrast, a tool to help us see similarities and differences between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors over time. This was responsible for a big a-ha moment for you. Can you tell us about this?

Tasha Eurich: [01:08:29] So everybody has seen meditation kind of be in the headlines. That’s something that sports teams do. They do in schools, corporations have used, and meditation is awesome, and there’s a lot of evidence that it helps us be more self-aware, but for the type A people like me who find meditation really hard to do on a daily basis, one of the things I wanted to discover in the process of researching this book is, are there things that the rest of us can do? You know, if I can’t find time to sit still for 10 minutes, is there something I can do to help me be more mindful, to help me notice new things about myself and my environment?

And this is how I developed the compare and contrast tool. And so basically the essence of mindfulness is noticing new things. So noticing how I feel about something, noticing what’s different today than it was yesterday. And the compare and contrast tool is very simple. So basically what we do is when we’re noticing something when we’re saying “I’m angry,” or “I’m happy,” or “I feel unfulfilled,” we can ask ourselves, “What about what I’m feeling right now is similar or different to how I felt in the past?”

[01:09:38] And for me, the example I used in Insight was I jumped around in the Fortune 500 in internal roles for about six years before I went out on my own about nine years ago. And what I discovered, one day as I was driving home from work, I was in what was supposed to be my dream job on paper. I had an amazing team. It was a very kind of high-profile position. I had a boss that let me do whatever I thought was best for the organization. But I just felt kind of tired and kind of worn down and like, “Is anything I’m doing really making a difference?” And I felt this way for a couple of weeks and I finally mentioned it to my husband and he said, “Well, that’s interesting.” So he actually kind of did this for me, which is sometimes what our loved ones can help us do is he said, “So you’ve been in your job about two years now?” And I said, “Yeah, I have.” And he said, “The last job you were in, I started to hear you say this about two years in,” and so I thought, “Okay, that’s really interesting. What about my last two jobs is the same? I’m feeling this way now. I felt that way then after about two years.” So then I started to compare it with other parts of my life. I spent several years teaching at a university while I was getting my PhD and I asked myself, “Did I feel this sort of restlessness then and there? And I said, “No, I didn’t feel that. I wonder if it was because every semester I had a group of new students, or I was always working on a new consulting project with a new company. At that time, I actually didn’t really have a boss. I was kind of doing what I thought was right, and these last two times that I felt this way, I’ve had a boss,” which made sense because I come from a long line of entrepreneurs who kind of hate being told what to do.

[01:11:13] And as I did this, I started to discover the two last environments I’ve been in, including the one I was in at the time, were maybe not the right place for me. But if I hadn’t asked that series of questions, I don’t think I would have stumbled upon the pattern. That’s what can be really helpful about comparing and contrasting is it kind of helps us take a step back in our lives and see what threads are running through things to help us have a better ability to make good decisions about our presence. And so that was actually, I didn’t do it right away ‘cause I was scared out of my mind, but I eventually quit that job to start my own business. And now almost 10 years in, I’ve never felt that way again.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:50] That’s fascinating. And it seems like you should probably write this stuff down cause otherwise if we’re just looking at it, we’re going to look back with rose-colored/poop-colored glasses. We’re going to have a positive or negative bias looking at our past careers, our past feelings, behaviors over time. That’s interesting. Last but not least, how do we deal with other people — because they’re always the problem — other people who are woefully un-self-aware? What about people who are — they just don’t get it and we work with them and they’re so irritating? Every company’s got to have these people. Every organization.

Tasha Eurich: [01:12:24] Our research has shown that 99 percent of people work with at least one such person, and almost half of us work with at least four. That’s probably, you know, everyone’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be more self-aware, but really, how do I deal with these people?” Again, there’s a lot to this, but we found that there are sort of different types of unaware people. There are what I call the Lost Causes, which are these people that, no matter how many people sit them down and say, “You’re a jerk. Nobody likes you. You need to change.” They are never going to listen. The Aware Don’t Care, the people who know exactly what they’re doing, but have this misguided belief that it’s helping them get what they want. And there are the Nudgeable, which are, in my experience, the large majority of unaware people are at least somewhat Nudgeable. We can help them if we’re the right person and when we take the right approach.

[01:13:13] But part of this is just — you’re managing risk. You’ve got an unaware person that you’re working with. Let’s say it’s your peer. By the way, those are the most common unaware people. They’re most likely to be peers. What do you do? Do you want to approach them? Is it your job to help them be more self-aware? What I tell people is basically as a default assumption, as much as you can, minimize the emotional impact that they have on you and focus your energy on your own self-awareness journey; you will almost never be disappointed. It becomes a little bit more challenging if you decide to sort of approach them. And so maybe we can talk about both scenarios, but I’m going to give you a tool that will help us all deal a little bit better with this behavior, regardless of whether or not we can change it.

[01:13:57] So I first came up with this tool, much like compare and contrast, when I was working for my own un-self-aware boss and he was definitely an Aware Don’t Care. And after the 25th time of crying secretly in my office, I just sort of had this moment of like, “There has to be another way — either I need to quit tomorrow, or I need to find a different way to perceive his behavior.” And I don’t know why this popped into my head, but I was thinking about maybe like famous bad bosses. And I remembered this — I loved Nick at Nite when I was little, and I watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And Mary’s boss, Lou Grant, was this kind of brash, almost abusive boss. She would come in and he would yell and scream at her. But because there was a laugh track behind what he was doing, it made his behavior a little bit more bearable and sometimes kind of endearing. You’re like, “Oh, Lou Grant, why are you such a jerk?” instead of maybe crying in your office.

[01:14:53] And so what I decided I was going to do is the next time I was in a situation where I was probably about to go cry in my office, I would imagine that there was a laugh track behind what my boss was saying at the moment, whatever asinine thing he happened to be saying. And what I discovered was it wasn’t completely perfect. I didn’t say, “Oh, I love my job and everything is wonderful.” But what I was able to do was snap out of it and that moment and sort of reframe the situation. Most of the time, that made it a lot more easy to deal with and it made it less emotionally taxing, and sometimes actually, it made it really funny! If there was a laugh track behind some of the asinine things he said, that actually is kind of funny! And I might’ve realized that in a year when I look back on this, but why not realize it now? Because that’s kind of great. Again, it’s not going to do everything we need it to, but I think as a stop-gap measure, that’s something that all of us can start using right away. And if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:49] Thank you so much. This has been fascinating. A lot of practicals in here. The book of course also has practicals and there’s a quiz on your website, this Insight quiz where you can take this five-minute survey to get a higher level picture of your self-awareness and get a few suggestions you can do right away to improve it. That’s always very helpful. We’ll link to that in the show notes and the worksheet as well. Tasha, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Tasha Eurich: [01:16:12] Thank you. It’s a blast.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:16] Big thanks to Tasha Eurich. Her book is called Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think. I really enjoyed this read. Again, not a lot of people talking about self-awareness except for people that are woefully un-self-aware, I would say. This is an interesting conversation. The book is a worthy read. Links to the book, of course, will be on the website in the show notes. Also in the show notes are the worksheets. We have these for every episode, including this one, so you can review what you’ve learned from Tasha. Those are free, obviously. We also now have transcripts for each episode, and those can be found in the show notes as well.

[01:16:51] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people like Tasha and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Now, I know you’re going to do it later, right? Yeah, I’m busy right now. I’m going to wait until my business launches. Whatever, I don’t buy it, so I’ve heard it all. The number one mistake people make is not digging the well before they get thirsty. You can’t build relationships when you need them. You’ve got to start early. It just takes a little bit of time. I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. This has been life-changing for me. It’s how high performers do it. It works. You can find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you’ll be in smart company.

[01:17:35] In fact, why not reach out to Tasha and tell her you enjoyed this episode of the show? Show guests love hearing from you on social media or email or whatever, and you never know what might shake out of that. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out to me on social media. I’m at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.

[01:17:52] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and this episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, and our engineer is Jase Sanderson. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty. Music by Evan Viola. I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. I’m sure as heck not a doctor nor a therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. That should be in every episode, so please share the show with those you love, and even those you don’t, especially those people that could use a little self-awareness. Am I right? In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen. We’ll see you next time.

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