According to the Enneagram test, I’m a Type 3 Achiever. That tells me that I’m “the success-oriented, pragmatic type: adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.” That one little label–“Type 3”–finally helped me understand why it drives me nuts when my coworkers borrow and don’t return my scissors.
But forgive me, I’ve skipped a few things. Let’s rewind just a little. Actually, let’s rewind a lot. Like all the way back to 500 B.C. in ancient Greece. Around that time, there are many myths about the ancient temple of the oracle of Delphi. Legend has it that people would journey to the temple to receive wisdom and insight from the oracle. On the temple, many short sayings were inscribed. Perhaps the most famous of these is the two-word command, “Know thyself.”
Thousands of years later, we are still trying to understand ourselves. And instead of trekking to a mountaintop temple, we take personality tests or self-assessments to try to better understand ourselves. You may have heard of Myers Briggs or the currently trending Enneagram test that I referenced above. But what does all of this have to do with communication, and specifically, with presenting? I’m glad you asked.
Aristotle said public speaking consists of three interrelated parts: speaker, message, and audience. The better we understand each of these parts, the better we can communicate. But we’ve neglected to study the speaker as much as we have studied the message and the audience. However, research shows that “accurate assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses is quite possibly the most powerful antidote to derailment risk . . . In fact, those who greatly overstate their abilities are 6.2 times more likely to derail than those with accurate self-awareness.” We can’t hop a plane and head to the temple of Delphi (actually, we can, but we won’t find an all-knowing oracle there anymore). But we can use the following tips to help us become more self-aware.
Enlist the help of friends.
Consider gathering a couple of close friends to help you identify your blind spots. Blind spots are things others can clearly see about us that we can’t see about ourselves. (Think Michael Scott from The Office.) Ask your friends to help you get a more accurate picture of how you communicate and relate to people by asking them open-ended questions and seeking out specific examples. If they’ve seen you present, ask them for feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you go into these conversations with an open mind, ready to learn from others what you might not be aware of about yourself. Take notes and thank your friends for the feedback they give you, even if it’s uncomfortable to hear.
Take time for introspection.
We live in a busy, noisy world. We don’t take time often enough to reflect, even though there is overwhelming scientific proof of our need for introspection. Recent research tells us that:
“downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities [and] develop our understanding of human behavior . . . While mind-wandering we replay conversations we had earlier that day, rewriting our verbal blunders as a way of learning to avoid them in the future . . . we subject ourselves to a kind of moral performance review . . . moments of introspection are also one way we form a sense of self . . . When it has a moment to itself, the mind dips its quill into our memories, sensory experiences, disappointments and desires so that it may continue writing this ongoing first-person narrative of life.”
If you never stop long enough or get quiet enough to reflect about who you are and how you communicate, you probably won’t ever grow. Be intentional about scheduling downtime to allow for deeper self-assessment and increased personal growth.
Take a test.
When the organization I work at offered Enneagram tests recently, I jumped at the chance to take one. At the end of the test, my results were crystal clear. Like I said above, I found out I was a Type 3 Achiever. Armed with new knowledge about my personality type, I began to make connections I hadn’t made before. I had been accused of being a bit “OCD” in my work environment—everything had it’s particular place. When co-workers borrowed something and either didn’t return it or put it somewhere different, I felt frustrated. However, my self-assessment helped me to understand that my frustration wasn’t because I really liked things neat and organized, it was because having a system allowed me to be more efficient with my work which lead to me achieving more in less time. In addition, knowing that I have a tendency toward being image-conscious allowed me to embrace newfound vulnerability in my speaking and teaching.
Below you’ll find the links to some of the most well-known and widely-used self-assessment tests.
- Myers & Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
- CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder)
- Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI)
- Badge Assessment from Ethos3 (Specifically for discovering your presentation persona.)
Once you’ve sought more knowledge about yourself, apply it. And keep learning. Learning about yourself isn’t a one-time, check-the-box, cross-it-off-the-list thing. It’s something we all need to strive for every day of our lives. We can all be better communicators tomorrow than we were today.
And here’s another practical tool to help you learn more about yourself while mastering the art of presenting. It’s our all-new online course. An added bonus to this results-driven assessment is that you won’t have to climb a mountain or wait in line for an oracle.