You 2.0: How To See Yourself Clearly

    Encouraging open and direct communication for feedback from loved ones can lead to better personal growth and stronger relationships. Honest feedback should be welcomed with an open mind to facilitate growth and personal development.

    enAugust 08, 2022

    About this Episode

    How well do we know ourselves? Maybe the better question to ask is how well can we truly know ourselves? Psychologist Tim Wilson says introspection only gets us so far, and that we often make important decisions in life and love for reasons we don't even realize. But he says there are some simple ways to improve our self-knowledge. 

    If you like this show, be sure to check out our other work, including our two recent episodes on how our mindsets shape our lives in subtle but profound ways. Episode 1 looks at  how we respond to stress, and episode 2 examines how our beliefs about food and exercise affect our bodies

    Also, if you'd like to support our work, you can do so at support.hiddenbrain.org. Thanks! 

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • To make the best decisions, it's crucial to look beyond our own self-perceptions and seek feedback from others. Combining internal and external perspectives can provide valuable insights that we may otherwise miss.
    • Don't make assumptions about what will make you happy; instead, pay attention to your emotional reactions to different options to discover what truly brings you joy and fulfillment.
    • We are skilled at convincing ourselves why we believe what we do, even in situations where the facts don't support our beliefs. Our minds can generate justifications, even when they don't align with reality.
    • Trusting our instincts can be more reliable than analyzing decisions thoroughly. Overthinking decisions can lead to becoming disconnected from our true feelings, highlighting the importance of avoiding overthinking and trusting our gut instincts.
    • We often overestimate the impact and duration of events on our emotions, but our psychological immune system helps us recover quickly. Recognizing this can improve decision-making and appreciation of the present moment.
    • Our unconscious minds can affect our perceptions of ourselves and the future, making it important to pay attention to nonverbal cues and seek feedback from those close to us for greater understanding.
    • While we may think we know ourselves best, our friends and family may have a better understanding of our personality and future behaviors. Trusting their past experiences can help us gain insight into our own future emotions and actions.
    • Using others' opinions as a guide, known as surrogation, can help predict our own preferences because we often have more in common than we realize. But we should balance it with maintaining a sense of personal agency.
    • Using surrogation, or relying on others' opinions, can be helpful in decision making, but it's important to consult multiple surrogates and be aware of potential errors. Trusting your own opinions is also crucial.
    • Giving feedback to friends and loved ones can be tricky, but staying silent can hinder growth. Consider constructive feedback on controllable things and tread carefully to maintain relationships.
    • Encouraging open and direct communication for feedback from loved ones can lead to better personal growth and stronger relationships. Honest feedback should be welcomed with an open mind to facilitate growth and personal development.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Importance of Seeking Outside Perspectives

    While we often believe that our answers come from within, psychological research shows that we may not always know ourselves as well as we think. Making decisions based on self-knowledge alone may lead us astray, as demonstrated in cases where individuals did not perceive the reality of their own relationships or personal traits. Instead, seeking outside perspectives and feedback can provide valuable insights into ourselves that we may otherwise miss. It is essential to consider both internal and external factors when making decisions, as relying solely on our inner voice may not always lead us down the best path.

    How to Avoid Misjudging What Makes You Happy

    Knowing ourselves can be a tricky task, as we often rely on our assumptions based on what we think should make us happy, without considering what actually does. Even professionals in psychology and real estate can fall into that trap. To overcome this obstacle, experts in the field suggest that we look into our emotional reactions when faced with different options instead of relying solely on our wishlists or self-assessments. By doing so, we can learn more about what truly brings us joy and fulfillment and make more informed decisions based on that knowledge.

    The Power of Self-Conviction

    People are incredibly adept at convincing themselves they know why they believe what they do. Even individuals with memory-related neurological disorders are able to seamlessly fill gaps in their knowledge with justifications and explanations. This phenomenon is also true for people without such disorders, as demonstrated in a study where participants were shown a picture of a person and asked to choose which one they deemed more attractive, and then were shown the opposite picture and asked to explain why they chose that one. Interestingly, even when the picture shown was not the one they had chosen, they were able to come up with reasons that were just as detailed and convincing as when the picture was correct.

    Why Overanalyzing Our Feelings Can Sometimes Mislead Us

    Studies show that introspection and coming up with detailed explanations for our choices can sometimes lead us to mislead ourselves. People are often able to come up with reasons that may not match their actual feelings, which can cause them to convince themselves that those reasons are accurate. The more we analyze our feelings, the more likely we are to become disconnected from our true feelings. Common wisdom suggests that analyzing decisions thoroughly will lead to better outcomes, but this is often not the case. Our gut feelings can often be more reliable when it comes to making choices we truly enjoy. This highlights the importance of trusting our instincts and avoiding overthinking decisions.

    The Flawed Ability to Predict Our Future Emotions

    Our ability to predict how we will feel in the future is flawed, and we tend to overestimate the impact of events on our emotional state and the duration of those emotions. Positive and negative events tend to have less impact on us than we expect, and we often return to our emotional baseline. This is due to our psychological immune system, which helps us find meaning in negative events and recover quickly. Loss and grief tend to be more enduring, but even then, we tend to overestimate the duration of our grief. Understanding our flawed ability to forecast our emotional state can help us make better decisions and appreciate the present moment.

    The Limits of Self-Knowledge and Forecasting

    Our internal mechanisms that help us perceive reality accurately often fail us when it comes to self-knowledge and forecasting. While some argue that overestimation helps us achieve our goals, there are times when it's not functional. Our unconscious minds play a role in reducing the impact of events, and we can't anticipate its actions in the future. Close observers of our behavior, like a spouse or close friend, can deduce our feelings and preferences better than we can. Over time, facial expressions, body language, and nonverbal leakage become important aspects of communication that can be at odds with our verbal reports on our opinions.

    The Power of Surrogation: How Trusting Others' Past Experiences Can Help Us Understand Ourselves Better

    Our friends and family can often know us better than we know ourselves, as evidenced by a study that shows their personality ratings accurately predicted how long people would live 75 years in advance. While we do have unique information about ourselves, we tend to overestimate how much our own knowledge can predict our future feelings and behaviors. Surrogation, or trusting others' past experiences, can help us better understand how we might feel in the future. This challenges the belief that we always know ourselves better than anyone else can know us.

    Surrogation: A More Effective Predictor of Preferences?

    Surrogation, or using another person's opinion as a guide, can be a more effective predictor of one's own preferences than personal profiles. This is because we often have more in common with others in our likes and dislikes than we realize. However, our desire for uniqueness and individuality can often lead to reticence towards surrogation. The pressure to be different can even influence our choices in group settings, such as at restaurants. Surrogation can be a useful tool in decision making, especially in cases where there is little variance in opinion. However, it's important to strike a balance between using others' opinions as a guide and maintaining a sense of personal agency.

    The Importance and Limitations of Surrogation in Decision Making

    The use of surrogation, or relying on the opinions and experiences of others, can be an effective tool in decision making. However, it is important to find multiple surrogates to consult in order to account for variance in opinions. Additionally, individuals should be aware of the limitations of surrogation and the potential for errors in affective forecasting, which can lead to regret. In the case of Netflix, relying on the data of what people actually watch, rather than what they say they want to watch, can be a more accurate predictor of preferences. Ultimately, while surrogation can be useful, individuals should also trust their own opinions and experiences in decision making.

    The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback

    When it comes to offering advice or feedback to friends and loved ones, it's important to tread carefully. In moments of great emotion, people might resent hearing from those who have been through similar situations as it might feel like their experience is being trivialized. However, due to social norms and fear of damaging relationships, people often keep their opinions to themselves, even if it could be helpful feedback. A potential solution proposed by Tim Wilson is a new Hallmark holiday called Social Feedback day, where friends can offer kind and useful feedback about controllable things. However, people are often reluctant to both give and receive feedback, whether negative or positive, due to the boundaries of propriety that they believe should be respected.

    The Importance of Honest Feedback in Building Relationships

    Receiving feedback from loved ones is important, but they may hesitate to share it directly. Communication gaps can result in missed opportunities and delayed growth. It is crucial to create an environment where feedback is encouraged and welcomed, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Tim Wilson's father's letter to a friend about his son's girlfriend highlights the need to bridge this gap and communicate directly. Honest feedback can have a significant impact, and it's essential to give and receive it with an open mind to improve relationships and personal growth.

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