The Self-Awareness Guy

Self-Awareness and the Tough Love Myth

When you have a high level of self-awareness you tend to stay away from treating other people harshly, as in the so-called "Tough Love" approach to parenting, leadership or any other interaction where you're trying to correct someone else's undesirable or out of control behavior. Tough Love is practiced by millions and looks like this:

  • Inability to empathize with the other person's situation.
  • Unnecessarily harsh or punitive approach to correcting behavior.
  • Resorting to punishment as first option.
  • Not connecting meaningfully with the other person.
  • Lack of listening.
  • Lack of patience.
  • Short-term thinking versus a long-term strategy.
  • Relying on ultimatums.
  • Dictatorial, telling someone what to do from the outside.

The perplexing thing about Tough Love is that there are so many other, more positive, ways to treat people, for example:

  • Empathizing with the other person.
  • Finding other options besides harsh behavior or punishment.
  • Negotiation and collaboration before punishment.
  • Building positive relationships.
  • Listening often and actively.
  • Being patient.
  • Interacting with people to build healthy, long-term relationships.
  • Realizing that change is an ongoing process.
  • Trusting and encouraging people to come up with their own solutions.

It's really easy to make someone's life miserable by punishing them, but it takes much more imagination and skill to encourage them to gain the insight necessary to overcome an obstacle. When you possess self-awareness, you have a choice as to how you interact with others regardless of how difficult their behavior or situation is: You can be kind, empathic, and resourceful, or rigid and draconian. Which approach will you choose?