*Highlighting different perspectives makes every business stronger. Alyssa is chiming in with a guest post this week.

My boyfriend and I go to the same Mexican restaurant almost every Saturday. You can expect it to be filled with tourists, locals, lifers, and us. Not only is the Mexican food some of the best in town, the restaurant is set up perfectly for people watching.

If there’s one thing that our weekly dive into a basket of chips and salsa has reinforced for me, it’s that people are strange. We’re complicated beings that express ourselves in intricate ways that are difficult to decipher. This fact is inevitable because the reality of interaction is that everything comes down to our own perception.

It’s for this reason the best leaders are excellent people watchers—they become masters of observation and thus navigate situations with greater awareness. They collect the normally untouchable data points to paint a more accurate perception.

Harnessing the Power of Observation

Watch without judgment.
This is hard because it can be fun to guess what people are thinking and feeling as you watch without the proper context. When you observe while purposefully limiting your own bias though, your observations are more actionable. It’s the difference between placing your own value on an action and purely observing an interaction.

For example, it’s not uncommon for us to see people flailing their arms in the air, passionately telling a story while sitting at Matt’s. And in those instances, it’s easy to think, “That woman must be upset, she’s being so forceful in her motions,” versus thinking, “That woman uses hand gestures frequently.” The latter carries less bias.

The same goes for work, if you see a co-worker drawing in a notebook during a meeting do you instantly think they’re distracted, or do you observe further to see if maybe they’re taking a visual note?

What perceptions do you normally place on common observations? How might that be hindering your perception of reality?

Use your observations to ask the right questions.
Even better than observing without judgment, is observing with the intention to ask the right questions. It’s like the saying goes, “when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.” Observing shouldn’t be about making assumptions, it’s about gathering available information to be able to show up to conversations with greater awareness and insight.

Observe intentionally.
We have a tendency to react based on one situation/response we observed. If scientists did this, studies would be wildly insignificant. Instead, they keep detailed field notes to track observations over time. Rather than casually observing, be intentional. When you casually observe, you’re only picking up on details that trigger a response or reaction in you. When you’re intentionally observing you are looking to test a theory and then reflect and analyze your observations. At its finest observation is a cycle of analysis.

Observation is power.

The more observant you are, the more awareness you have when navigating situations. As a result, you can apply your insight and adapt your behavior to meet the needs of the person you’re interacting with.

Thoughtstarters

  1. Do you people watch as closely at work as you do outside of work?
  2. Are you using observation to your advantage or passively moving about your environment?
  3. Are you asking questions after making observations or merely making assumptions?
  4. Pick a person to observe this week. Think about what you learned. How can you adapt your behavior based on what you learned? How did your observations change your point of view?

Want to share your thoughts? Have a great story about observation? Or maybe just a great story about Mexican food? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Make it a great week,
Alyssa

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