One of the most common errors I see amongst well-meaning people are errors of awareness. They're people with the ability to influence and they only want to help, but they lack a fundamental awareness of how others will react. This is particularly unfortunate because their efforts go misguided and can harm rather than help.
The biggest sign that you may be a person who makes this mistake is if your results don't match your expectations. You do something nice for someone and it seems to go unappreciated. You spend time with someone, but they don't make an effort to see you again. Or maybe someone complains about something to you that seems like it has come totally out of left field.
All of us will have these sorts of things happen on rare occasions, but if they are happening on a regular basis, you are probably making a fundamental awareness error.
Usually this is the result of not thinking about second-order effects of your action. For example, maybe you introduce two of your friends, thinking that they might want to date, but you didn't consider the fact that one of your other friends had a crush on one of them. Your intentions were good, but you didn't anticipate the side effects.
Or maybe you share some exciting news of a friend, but you didn't consider that maybe that was supposed to be more private news, and now you've made it public.
A more subtle example is when you fail to match the tone of a conversation. Perhaps the group is talking about a tough experience of one of the members of the group, but when you try to lighten the mood, it isn't appreciated.
The solution to this problem is to essentially run a simulator inside your head. Before you say anything of any consequence, force yourself to simulate how the other parties will react. At first this will be a very cumbersome process and it will slow you down, but over time it will become effortless and automatic.
Pay attention both to the times when you are right and the times when you are wrong. Write them down after the conversations.
Let's say you were going to introduce two friends to try to set them up. You should think about how both of them will feel as well as who in your friend group knows them and how they will react. You might predict that both friends would be happy to meet each other and that the few friends that know one or the other of them will not be indifferent. If the result ends up being different, write it down and try to figure out why.
It's very likely that you have blinders on which are preventing you from having full awareness, or you are projecting your own personality onto others rather than anticipating their reaction.
Over time you will notice two things, hopefully. First, you will notice that it's much easier to simulate people. You'll skip through thinking about every single person and every single reaction, and jump to likely reactions from affected people. You'll also notice trends in what you miss. Most people aren't totally unaware, they just have a few blind spots.
Building the ability to simulate others' reactions is incredibly valuable in many ways— with friends, loved ones, negotiating partners, and even strangers. It isn't an easy skill to learn, but the payoff will be worth it.
Photo is a bell at the top of a pagoda in Taiwan, naturally.
Here's my theory: harsh criticism is one of the most valuable commodities out there, and you should be collecting as much of it as possible. Secondly, people enjoy giving harsh criticism, but only if they know it will be appreciated. If they think you might react poorly, you'll never hear it.
Sebastian and I pretty much have a relationship based on harsh criticism. I remember a year ago or so he was in San Francisco, it was after midnight, and we were circling this random patio in the middle of the park. And we were just unloading on each other. It felt like a boxing match or something.
And, you know, after the conversation we were both better off, and probably better friends, too. We both love giving and receiving harsh criticism.
I got an email from him last week, saying that it seemed like my focus on Sett was waning and that I was spending too much effort on learning languages, traveling, and being crazy. It was more eloquently written than that, but that was the gist.
Ah, you there, my Type-A friend. I'm glad you came today. Come in. What would you like? We've got coffees, teas, or clear still water perhaps? No juices at the moment, I'm afraid, I'm not having carbohydrates and it'd be fiddling with the devil to buy juice and then attempt not to drink it. The coffee is good, though, yes?
One moment. I'd like to light the fireplace. Maybe it's technically Spring, but this "Spring" in West Germany is chilly and cold and damp and grey, right down into the bones. But pardon me, I'm near veering into complaint, which is the exact opposite of the place I want to go. I'd much rather pull up by the warm fire's glow with non-carbohydrate beverage-of-choice and muse a little about philosophy and psychology with you -- and maybe it'll even be productive for us?
Ah, the warmth is nice.