Take a look at this picture.  

From pg. 81 of the wonderful Thanks for the Feedback by Stone and Heen

It is a diagram of what is happening when we do something and someone reacts to it.  Pretty basic interaction, right? 

Not at all! It is so complicated!

It turns out, that it is remarkably difficult to see our behavior (and the impact that it has) objectively.

Yes, we ideally have access to what is inside the left-hand, smaller circle… “my thoughts & feelings” and also “my intentions,” though even these are not always accessible to us depending on our inner state!

And then, we have partial knowledge of our behavior… partial because it is so hard to perceive our facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.

And unless the other person chooses to share, we have no visibility on the things solely in the right-hand circle: “my impact on them” and “their story about me.”  These form the basis of their feedback.

Our relationships (and so our life) get better when we have more visibility on our behavior and our impact on others.  

So, where to start? 

1. Mindfulness practice – This deepens and refines my perception of and receptivity to all of the inputs in the graphic. 

2. Taking myself less seriously – Humor (particularly the self-deprecating kind) lowers the stakes for the person who might take the risk to clue us in on what we are missing.