Personal Impact Awareness

by Dr Michael Jemphrey

Dr Michael Jemphrey, Translation and Anthropology Consultant, SIL

Like a drop in a pond, we all have an impact on those around us. As we mentor others, who in turn mentor others, that impact can be wide ranging. Impact is the way I influence others as a result of my total person:

  • my behaviour
  • my choice of words
  • my intonation
  • my gestures and body language 
  • my life patterns and lifestyle (Gardner, 1997).

The following diagram is called the Johari window (Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, 1955), and it can help us to think further on our impact.

The open area represents the aspects of the self that are openly shared by the self and are readily visible to others.

The blind area represents those aspects of the self that a person is unaware of but are visible to others. The discovery of this part of ourselves is a surprise.

The secret area represents the secrets that a person keeps from others and are only visible or  known to the self. These may be weaknesses or shameful events we want to hide from others.

The subconscious area is not visible or known to either ourselves or others and could be experiences that are too painful to remember.

If our blind spot dominates and we are largely unaware of the impact we have on others, we can be like a bull in a china shop, creating havoc without realising it. It is important for mentors to take time to seek out feedback from our mentees on how the mentorship is working and whether our behaviour could be modified to avoid unintended damage. This is especially important in cross-cultural mentorships where your behaviour can be perceived differently from what you expect.

If our secret pane dominates and we hide all our weaknesses and struggles from our mentee, we can come across as a detective inspecting the mentee, always pointing out and judging the weaknesses in another.  A mentee can really be encouraged by a mentor sharing their struggles. It  shows that the role they are learning is not only for supermen and superwomen. It models for them how to be open to think about their own weaknesses and how to grow through them. Obviously, this needs to be done sensitively and gradually, in a way that builds trust, and encourages the mentee rather than overwhelms them with too much detail!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Asking your mentee for feedback can be a great way to enlarge the open area and be a spur for growth both for you and your mentee.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

In conclusion, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I get the feedback I need to grow my open area?
  • Have I asked my mentees (or others) to give me feedback about my impact on them? 
  • Am I afraid to ask them to give me feedback?  Why? 
  • Do I get the feedback I have asked for? 
  • How do I respond when I do get the feedback I have asked for? 
  • Am I defensive, fall apart or do I take it on board and grow and adapt
    • my behaviour 
    • my choice of words 
    • my intonation 
    • my gestures and body language 
    • my life patterns and lifestyle…

for the good of my mentees and the glory of God?

Suggested reading:

Gardner, L. M. (1997) Impact Awareness. Dallas: Wycliffe Bible Translators. The article is available online here.

Banner photo by Koen Emmers on Unsplash

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