Cultivating greater self-awareness is the best thing that we can do to improve not only our relationship with others, but also with ourselves too.
It’s this that makes us conscious of our actions and words, as well as the impact they have on others.
Sadly some people still have a lot of work to do.
They lack even the most basic levels of self-awareness to help them navigate social situations with delicacy and understanding.
Certain phrases tend to give these people away.
So let’s take a look.
1) “I beg to differ”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never once heard someone manage to use this phrase without sounding condescending and rude.
It just comes across as snide, and slightly arrogant.
It’s not that we can’t disagree, it’s that there is a way of going about it.
Certainly, whenever we are trying to encourage others to see another side, or perhaps even get them to change their mind, it’s better to be delicate in your approach.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be honest, but you should still be tactful.
Saying to someone that you “beg to differ” lacks self-awareness as it’s pretty much the same as saying “Er…you’re wrong”.
People who are more mindful of their words realize it’s never going to get anyone onside.
All it really does is bolster your own ego as you try to make yourself look superior.
2) “You don’t know what you’re talking about”
This phase smacks of defensiveness, and that’s a really common trait in people who lack any self-awareness.
As they aren’t able to reflect on their weaknesses and flaws, they have a much harder time accepting them.
The truth is their ego and self-esteem are too fragile to handle it. So when they get any kind of feedback — constructive or not — it feels like a personal attack.
I know that none of us particularly enjoy hearing where we could improve. It can feel like a rejection.
That’s why it takes a lot of emotional maturity and emotional intelligence to handle it — both of which demand a certain amount of self-awareness.
When we are able to consider the merit of other people’s assessments of us, we are much better at taking feedback on board.
That’s why when anyone’s automatic response is to jump down your throat when you offer suggestions, they are likely lacking self-awareness.
3) “It wasn’t my fault”
I think this is the quality of people who lack self-awareness that I find most infuriating.
And that’s the victimhood mentality that prompts them to constantly seek excuses and scapegoats.
Sure, they’re happy to basque in the credit. But they’re very quick to sidestep any blame.
It usually sounds pretty feeble when someone tries to plead that “it wasn’t my fault, it was X, Y, and Z”.
But they don’t grasp how weak, rather than vindicated, it makes them sound.
4) I’m sorry you feel that way”
This could be considered the smart-ass way of getting around an apology.
After all, on the surface, it sounds very similar to an apology, but with one key difference:
You’re not actually accepting any wrongdoing whatsoever.
In fact, you’re kind of piling it back onto the other person.
When someone uses a phrase like this, they’re not saying sorry for something they may have said or done that has hurt, offended, or affected somebody.
Instead, they are sorry for the way you reacted to it.
It’s not necessarily about shouldering the blame. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have done anything particularly “wrong”.
But we can still acknowledge how someone else is feeling and take responsibility for ourselves in the process.
That means owning how our actions affect those around us, whether it was intentional or not.
5) “How dare you!”
**Moral high ground alert**
Let’s face it, this sort of commentary in most cases is unhelpful and often over the top too.
People with self-awareness throw this sort of phrase around when you disagree with them or generally offer up a counterpoint.
It’s meant to imply that they’re deeply offended or angry, and will usually be a prelude to some sort of emotional outburst.
Overreacting is yet another common feature of people without any self-awareness.
The better we know and understand ourselves the more of a grasp we have on our emotions. Without this, people find it much harder to keep a hold of themselves.
So they’re more prone to flying off the handle over the slightest things.
6) “I was just being honest”
The irony is, that when someone else is just being honest with them, they don’t like it very much at all.
But of course, they don’t have the self-consciousness to pick up on that hypocrisy.
So they’ll happily use this phrase as some sort of justification for whatever they say.
It takes self-awareness to understand that our truth is merely our own narrowly defined perspective. It’s created with our own unique filter, so not everyone will see things the same way.
What it isn’t is some sort of universal fact.
Whether we were being honest or not doesn’t give us the right to carelessly trample over the feelings of others.
7) “You’re just jealous”
Maybe they are.
We’re all capable of feeling envy creep in from time to time.
In fact, pretty much every time I open Instagram I find myself looking longingly at how green the grass is elsewhere.
But regardless, phrases like this are hardly a gracious way of dealing with it.
Along with being potentially defensive, it just sounds insensitive with a good pinch of conceit thrown into the mix too.
8) “I’m sort of known for my…”
Knowing your own good qualities is great.
It’s often a sign of healthy self-esteem when we can recognize our talents and skills. I’m a huge advocate for backing yourself and playing to your strengths.
But if we’re not careful, letting everyone else know how great we are, just comes across as bragging or gloating.
Rather than raise our status in others’ eyes, it also has the opposite effect and comes across as cringe or attention seeking.
It often depends on the context as well as how you phrase it.
If someone is looking for a marketing whizz and you tell them that’s part of your repertoire so you can definitely help them out — that’s all good.
But randomly volunteering out of nowhere that you’re sort of known for your super pert butt, your sharp sense of humor, or your astute observations is pretty irrelevant.
People who lack self-awareness often lack humility because they don’t spot how embarrassing showing off appears to others.
9) “I wasn’t thinking”
In the heat of the moment, we can all act rashly and regret it later.
But that’s far more commonplace for people lacking self-awareness.
That’s because, as we already mentioned, they don’t stop to analyze what they are feeling and how that impacts their behavior.
So instead, they impulsively act now and think later.
This can land them in all sorts of hot water, with their only defense being that they weren’t thinking properly at the time.
10) “I don’t really care what anybody else thinks”
I’ve written articles on the merits of not giving a damn.
But there’s always a caveat.
Sometimes we talk about not caring what anyone thinks of you as a healthy expression of living your life the way you want.
But it slips into selfishness if you genuinely disregard the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of everyone else around you.
Besides, this sort of phrase is usually used to shoot down someone who may be trying to offer advice or a different perspective.
We get to decide whose words we take on board, and whose we disregard. Yet we should make space and take into account what the people who we value the most have to say to us.
Otherwise, what we’re really saying is that we take no responsibility for how we interact with those around us.
It’s difficult to make someone see their own blindspots
When faced with someone with a lack of self-awareness often our best response is to remain as aware as we possibly can.
That way, we can at least control our response and make sure we don’t feed into a vicious cycle that only hinders communication even more.
Sometimes it’s possible to provide feedback and insights that point things out to other people that they weren’t conscious of.
But ultimately, as the name suggests, self-awareness has to be an inside job.
Without an established relationship of trust, trying to help others see the error of their ways is more likely to backfire.