When someone lacks self-awareness, they have a poor understanding of what makes them the person who they are. They might not have a strongly defined personality, or they might struggle to cultivate a set of values that shape their lives.
Because of that, they also struggle with all sorts of things that the rest of us take for granted. Their poor understanding of their own personality means that they tend to struggle with things like setting boundaries and receiving feedback.
And that brings us to the topic of today’s article, which is the behaviors that people with poor self-awareness tend to display.
Perhaps you’re worried that you have a poor sense of self-awareness yourself, or maybe you’re concerned about a friend or a loved one.
Either way, you’ve come to the right place. These are the behaviors you need to look out for.
1) They automatically become defensive
When people lack self-awareness, they don’t always understand that they’re doing wrong.
Because of that, when someone calls them out and confronts them about their behavior, they have a tendency to react negatively. Instead of listening and understanding what they’re doing wrong and how they can address it, they’ll try to fight back. They don’t realize that it’s not a personal attack.
Meanwhile, those of us who have a good sense of self-awareness know that when people provide us with feedback, they’re just trying to help. We know we don’t have to act on that feedback if we don’t want to.
2) They shift blame onto other people
When people who lack self-awareness are criticized, they end to go from being defensive to going on the offense.
This means that if they believe there’s some blame to be had, they won’t accept it for themselves. Instead, they’ll look around for the best person to shift that blame towards. They’re not much fun to work with, especially if the project goes wrong.
The good news here is that it’s easy to spot. The bad news is that it’s easy to spot because the blame-shifting is so obvious and harmful. And if you’re not careful, you could easily fall victim to it.
3) They never apologize
Even when people who lack self-awareness know that they’re in the wrong, they don’t apologize. After all, they reason, why should they?
Now, I’ve met a lot of people who don’t apologize when their actions are harmful, and I’m not saying that all of them lack self-awareness. It’s just that a good percentage of them do, and they seem to have a disconnect between their actions and the consequences that those actions bring.
This is one of the reasons why I go out of my way to apologize when I know I’ve done wrong.
Apologies show people that you’ve taken criticism on board and that you plan to change, and for me at least, I think they’re as impactful for the person apologizing as for the people receiving the apology.
4) They overreact to things
As you can probably tell from all this talk of becoming defensive, shifting blame and not apologizing, people who lack self-awareness tend to overreact to things.
It’s as though they’re experiencing everything up to eleven, to paraphrase Spinal Tap. When they’re happy, they’re outrageously happy, to the point at which you might start to worry. And when they’re angry… well, you’d better seek cover.
This comes from the fact that they don’t know themselves and their emotions as well as the rest of us. When a normal person gets sad or angry, they know how to respond; when those lacking self-awareness experience an extreme emotion, they don’t have any of the tools they need to deal with them.
5) They ignore constructive feedback
People who lack self-awareness tend to ignore constructive feedback because, like we said before, they’ll see it as criticism and turn defensive.
This is part of the reason why they lack self-awareness in the first place. Every time they’ve been given feedback about their lack of self-awareness, they’ve dodged the opportunity to learn from it. They’ve chosen to ignore feedback instead of to improve themselves.
Their capability for ignoring constructive feedback also extends to when they provide feedback to other people.
Instead of giving people advice on how to better themselves, they’ll just criticize. Their lack of self-awareness leads them to not understand the difference between criticism and constructive feedback.
6) They’re impulsive
Because people who lack self-awareness don’t have great impulse control, as soon as they think of doing something, they’ll do it.
This is one of the main things that they get criticized for, because it leads to all sorts of complications. For example, they might cheat on their partner or get super drunk at an important social event, even though they know they’re not supposed to.
It’s not that they don’t care, although to other people, it can seem that way. It’s just that their impulse control sucks and they can’t help themselves. They don’t have enough self-awareness to stop.
7) They struggle to maintain long-term relationships
Given everything that we’ve talked about today, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that people who lack self-awareness tend to struggle with relationships.
In the British sitcom Peep Show, there’s a character called Jeremy who’s the archetype of someone who lacks self-awareness. Pretty much all of his interactions with other characters come down to him screwing them over, to the point at which when he celebrates his 40th birthday, there’s no one to invite.
Don’t be like Jeremy. If you know that you lack self-awareness, go out of your way to cultivate long-term relationships, knowing that it’s something that you’ll find harder than other people.
8) They suck at listening
Perhaps this is another reason why they struggle with long-term relationships.
People who lack self-awareness are bad at listening because they tend not to care about what other people have to say. This is particularly true when someone’s telling them about their day or making casual conversation.
The good news is that there’s something that they can do about it, which is that they can study the art of active listening. The bad news is that they usually don’t want to.
9) Their behavior is inconsistent
People who lack self-awareness are inconsistent right across the board, mostly because they’re so impulsive.
In other words, when presented with the same scenario on two different days, they’ll react very differently. If a homeless person asks them for money on a Monday, they might give it to them. On a Tuesday, they might hurl abuse at them.
This can make it difficult for us to predict how these people are likely to react in any given situation. And because they lack self-awareness, they usually don’t know how they’re likely to react themselves. It’s better to not even hazard a guess.
10) They don’t make time for self-development
As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, people who lack self-awareness rarely want to change.
That’s because they don’t have the requisite self-awareness to understand that something is broken, and if they don’t know it’s broken, how can we expect them to fix it?
As a result of this, they rarely bother to invest time into self-development. They’d rather just keep on keeping on, doing the same thing they’ve always done.
And if they’re not going to make time for self-development and they automatically become defensive when we try to point out their lack of self-awareness, there’s not much we can do. We just have to hope that they’ll grow out of the phase over time.
So now that you know which behaviors you can expect to see from people who lack self-awareness, you’re better placed to make informed decisions.
If you’re displaying a few of these behaviors yourself, perhaps it’s time for you to take a closer look at yourself and to figure out why that is. Self-awareness is like a muscle that can grow over time, and so as long as you know that it’s something you need to work on, you can work on it.
And of course, if you’re seeing these behaviors in someone else, you’ve got a decision to make. Are you going to confront them about it? Or are you going to let it pass?
The choice is yours.