Self-awareness is all the rage lately. Emotional IQ training. Meditation. Journaling. We’ve made self-awareness trendy.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Slowing down to figure out how we are affecting the world around us is more productive and expected as we interact with each other.
I learned the Left-Hand Column Exercise years ago at my first full-time job, and it’s been a valuable tool for me over the years. Whether a tense verbal conversation with a coworker or customer or an uncomfortable interaction that you can’t quite put your finger on why it was awkward, this exercise will help you identify factors you may not have noticed or considered before.
How the Left-Hand Column Exercise works:
- Take a piece of paper and draw a line straight down the middle (length-wise) of the page. Alternatively, you may fold it “hot dog style.”
- On the right side of the paper, write down the situation as it happened. You want to focus on a purely factual recount as if giving a police report. What was said? Where/how was everyone standing? Did anyone take any action? Write in narrative format.
- Then, on the left side of the paper, write down your internal dialogue during the situation. What do you wish you would have said? What were you thinking? How were you feeling?
- Take a deep breath.
- Now take a look at what you wrote. Does anything stand out to you?
Consider the following reflective questions:
- Can you pinpoint keywords or actions that triggered emotion in you?
- How might your words or actions have contributed to the situation?
- If you could have said or done something differently, what would it be?
- Why didn’t you say what you were thinking?
- How do you intend to handle similar situations in the future?
The best thing about this exercise is the low investment / high reward. You don’t need a special app or to relocate yourself. All you need is a pen and paper to gain serious insight.
Go forth and be better!