An exercise and lessons in self reflection. Look me in the eye .....or don't.

Photography by Trish Nicklin

Photography by Trish Nicklin

Self reflection as an exercise, the cause

It has been an interesting month, not the least because I have been working hard exploring the topic of neuro-diversity which is the appreciation, acceptance and recognition of neurological differences; such as those on the Autism Spectrum, Tourettes Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia to name a few. This has all been part of the final publication of a White Paper I researched and wrote for my work with the Australian Transformation and Turnaround Association, on the topic of "Diversity in Transformation: Having the courage to think, lead and act" a copy of which you can find here on the website. 

The benefits of bringing together Diverse Thinkers to any debate, discussion, collaboration or collective is a no-brainer ( pun intended) because the results of all this different thinking are so rich and diverse. 

The reflection 

But we digress, whilst looking at neuro-diversity I took the opportunity to question a lot of my own habits and behaviors and to reflect on myself and some of the challenges I personally face, and have faced as I charge head first into and around this corporate life. I opened my mind and just let my thoughts self reflect to see what came up. It was an interesting exercise. I started with a scenario of me having a conversation with another person. 

My thinking works this way.....

I have always known my brain sees a big bank of television screens. Kind of like a TV producer sees in a TV studio. I was blessed to train with some perceptive folk earlier in my career and to have been put through countless personality profiles in my time which all put me in different baskets which we worked out down the track was because I was focusing on certain screens at the time. Interesting stuff. 

This led me to realise I apply critical thinking naturally - being the art of thinking of one topic in different aspects, perspectives and environments. Eventually after a lot of false starts this realisation led me to develop models of this process , to teach others so that they can use it to improve their own decision making and to stress test their own idea's and plans.

So when I am listening to someone, I am filtering through the screens applying different logic and perspectives so I can actively contribute to the conversation. 

My physical reaction is like this......

But the interesting item that came to my attention from this exercise was reminder of my inability to look people directly in the eye for more than a few seconds. 

Yes, you read that right. if you know me you might say "but Trish you look me in the eye all the time". Actually no, I am looking at the bridge of your nose, or your mouth as you speak, a self survival technique I taught myself way back in Primary School that has helped me all my life. 

I don't know any different, because for me looking someone direct in the eye is very distracting and I cannot follow the conversation as a result. I get anxious, it feels strange and way too intimate. I start focusing on what the eye as a picture is telling me not what you are saying. So instead I stick to the other central parts of the face, with the occasional glimpse at the eyes just to make sure I am not being caught out. 

The lack of eye to eye contact has never been a problem for the most part as it allows my brain to focus in on the TV screens it needs to to absorb and process information. 

with the odd exception...

I never forget the shame and embarrassment I felt once in a client meeting about 6 years ago where a client admonished me for not looking him in the eye when he was talking to me. I went red, my cheeks flushed and I mumbled my way through a very poor explanation about how I struggle to concentrate when I look at a persons eyes. His look of disgust at what he considered a poor excuse was painful to endure and I barely managed to make it out of there before dissolving in a fit of tears and shame at the first opportunity to be alone. Ever since then I have re-doubled my efforts to mask my eye to eye deficiency. 

mostly its great....

There are few people whose eyes I can stare into for longer than 2 seconds when they are talking to me, for example my husband and children.  

I do look some people in the eye, there are people who really capture my attention without fogging my TV screens and as rare as they are, I really enjoy the opportunity to read about them via their eyes. 

The learning is constant..

So I have been wondering if this means anything much at all. I am sure there are loads and loads of others out there who have similar experiences. Yes I have wondered if I am on the spectrum, yes I have done some tests, yes it looks like there is alignment, no it isn't complete or conclusive. 

For me, the learning of this act of self reflection is profound. More so because I didn't particularly invite it in, rather I opened my mind and it kind of barged its way in making sure I took notice. 

So now I am hyper aware of this eye contact "thing" I will have to do some thinking about what to do with it and why I should, when I will or if I want to. 

I hope that by sharing this with you, you might take a dip in the self reflection pool and see what comes along and knocks you down mid thought. I guarantee you it won't be anything you expected. 

think well


May 2018