How Others See Us

By Chris Chittenden

Human beings live in a social setting. As social beings, we have our views of the other human beings that we know or know of. Our views of others and their views of us play a critical part in what we can achieve in life. If we make certain assessments about ourselves in terms of what we offer others and no one else shares those assessments of us, then there will be an impact on the way we can interact with them.

Take work for example. Our society is based on trading with each other to get what we need in life to survive and prosper. At a basic level, we trade our labour for a reward; normally money. I might hold the assessment that I am a great coach and say this is how I want to make my living. However, if no-one else makes that assessment, then I have a problem. It is clear that my value of myself as a coach to society does not lie with me alone. It lies in my identity as a coach in the eyes of others. In other words, great coaching does not sit with me as a Coach, but in the assessments of the person I coach. This applies to each one of us in relation to how we want to engage with society.

Our identity in the eyes of others can be seen not just as who we are, but what we offer to society. This in turn has an impact on how we see ourselves. If I want to be a Coach and no-one sees me as an offer to them in a coaching relationship, then at some point, I will be forced to question my original assessment that I am a good Coach.

We are claiming that "identity" is very important to human beings in terms of their role and standing in society. However, the idea that we possess an identity is a bit of a misnomer. We do not possess an identity as such, rather it lives in the assessments of others. Everyone to whom I am known will hold assessments of me and those assessments form my identity in their eyes. We do have a view of ourselves and a view our identity to others, but this is our view and, as we have said, what is possible for us is not based on our view of ourselves alone.

Given that each one of us is always making assessments of the world, including other people, we can say that our identity to another individual is dynamic. Every action we take has the potential to enhance or damage our identity with another. As we have spoken about in previous articles, we can develop an interpretation of human beings in the three domains of language, emotions and body. As such we also claim that identity is created in these three domains. When we think of what identity we want to create with others, we can consider how we use language, what emotions we bring to our interactions, how we show up physically to them and what actions we take.

You may recall that we also claim that we do not observe most of the actions we take; that we act transparently. Therefore, if we want to enhance our identity in the eyes of others, we should listen to what others are telling us because their assessments may well provide us with clues to the way we are acting that we may not see.

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© 2002 Chris Chittenden