How does your level of self monitoring affect your work and relationship?

How does your level of self monitoring affect your work and relationship?

Have you ever come across a situation in work where you observe a particular colleague who seem to be saying all the right words and doing all the right things? For example, your colleague says playfully during a serious meeting, “Well, looks like we will have to take a break before my head starts spinning more.” And the crowd bursts into laughter and proceeds to take a well deserved break.

So apart from the timing and the tone being used when expressing a thought in the scenario above, the individual must be taking social cues from the rest of the group and then only he/she determines to speak playfully. So in this article, we would explore how personal levels of self monitoring can affect how you communicate during work or in a relationship.

What is self monitoring?

It is defined as a personality trait that refers to an ability to regulate behavior to accommodate social situations. You can be defined as either having high self monitoring or low self monitoring. Loosely, it is the level of your awareness of how others perceive you and how much are you willing to adapt to fit the situation.

High self monitoring

Individuals who have high self monitoring tend to be viewed as “social chameleons” or people who have high people skills. From the outset, it may seem that high self monitors must be individuals who are successful at maneuvering in social settings. However, high self monitoring individuals may tend to choose not to voice honest opinions which may be true feelings that they may want to express but hold back solely because they might not want to go against the grain.

To illustrate this, you have this colleague that might say during a formal meeting, “this project is great and I will support it fully” but immediately during the coffee break from the meeting talk about the potential challenges that would be faced. So you might be figuring out in your head, why did he not mention the potential challenges during the meeting? Only then can the solution be discussed. Well, one of the possibility is that he might be a high self monitor but you can’t help to think that he might not be a genuine person.

Low self monitoring

Low self monitoring individuals tend to express themselves based on their inner attitudes or beliefs. They tend to consider the social context less as compared to the high self monitors. Therefore, low self monitoring individuals may tell it like it is even when the timing may not be right and consequently the message might not be well received. Probably these individuals could be described as blunt or a straight shooter. In spite of that, low self monitors would be perceived as consistent in their convictions and beliefs regardless of the social situation.

To further the example used above, the low self monitor would speak up on the potential challenges mentioned by the high self monitor during the coffee break. Guess what happens? His upper management instead of appreciating bringing up potential challenges, views the low self monitor as “having a negative attitude”. Well meaning and as sincere as the self monitor could express himself, would think to himself that no honest feedback should be given. This is definitely a negative vicious cycle which could easily be avoided. Nonetheless, in this case, the self monitor should learn that there is probably a better situation/time to talk to upper management on the potential challenges e.g. behind closed doors with a trusted superior.

Are leaders high or low self monitors?

There has been research on why high self monitors tend to emerge as leaders in groups, so I guess leaders tend to be high self monitors. We can easily see why, as low self monitors would probably display aggressiveness or be overly insistent on their own opinion, which would be a turn off in the work place.

So should I be a high self monitor or low self monitor?

You can’t choose to be a high or low self monitor as each of us are already predisposed to one style or another. You can take this test to determine your personal monitoring level. Firstly, take the test and be aware whether you censor what you say or do not. The point is that you should learn more about yourself and adjust from there. I believe all of us should learn to read social cues, but beware of the pitfall of adjusting your behavior too much to the point you may be labelled as insincere or fake. We can’t change overnight, but we can take steps towards recognizing how this affects the way we communicate with others and certainly increase the quality of the communication. Self monitoring certainly can be especially useful to develop your interview skill to make a good impression.

Note to those in leadership roles

We can easily see that high and low self monitors have different ways of expressing themselves. Consequently, readers who may be in upper management roles, should be able to understand employees better. Genuinely appreciate and seek to understand low self monitors who speak up and encourage high self monitors to give honest feedback.

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