Why you should develop your observational powers
Your observational powers can have a significant impact on your life because you will be armed with more information. The Oxford dictionary defines observation as “the action or process of observing something or someone in order to gain information.”
Visual observations that aid in decision making
Being aware of what we see happening is the first step in analyzing any situation that you find yourself in. If you are walking down a dark alleyway and you see someone walking close behind you, your brain immediately analyzes what is happening. Does the person look threatening? Are they matching your pace if you speed up or slow down? Is their face obscured? These are things that you analyze so you can make the correct decision about whether or not you are in danger. Observational prowess doesn’t just keep you safe, but it can also be used in a professional sense.
- Audio observations can also aid in making decisions
We process information as we see it, but we can also glean useful information from the things we hear. I was walking around the lake near my house one day; alone, and in the dark. I have never been afraid, but this one night the moon was nonexistent and it was cloudy and especially dark. My headlamp had died, and I couldn’t see anything around me. I was walking along, deep in thought, when I heard branches crunching behind me. It didn’t sound like someone was walking at a leisurely pace behind me; it sounded hurried and I was instantly on alert. I had a few moments to decide what my reaction would be to a potential threat that I couldn’t see coming. I am a fighter (not a flighter), so I planted my feet and whipped around. Three deer came barrelling out of the woods, just feet away from me. Thankfully, this wasn’t some homicidal madman, but I used my observational listening skills to process that something didn’t sound quite right. Often, we will hear things before we see them, and having a keen sense of the surrounding sounds can make all the difference in what course of action we take.
- Visual cues can help when you are listening
Most people think that listening is an activity done solely with your ears. However, there can be a wealth of information found when you actively listen to people. Active listening involves looking directly at the person you are listening to. This gives you the ability to observe their body language, and not take their words at face value. If someone sounds calm and unaffected but you notice their fists are clenched, or their legs are shaking, you can deduce several things. Maybe they are angry and they don’t want to show it. They could also be nervous, and not as confident as they seem.
- The way someone sounds is almost as important as the words they use
Listening is so much more than hearing a person’s words. If you listen with the intent to observe, you will be able to hear variations in people’s voices. The more excited I am, the higher and louder I become. My teenager knows almost immediately if I am lying because my voice gets squeakier. If your friend is telling you they are ok, but you can hear their voice quivering, you know they are more upset than they are letting on. All of this knowledge will help you know what to do next.
- How to develop your observational skills so you don’t miss out on this knowledge
When I was a lifeguard trainer we used to do a simple skill drill. I would take about 20 random items (anything from a stapler to a pen or a paperclip) and lay them on the table. Each potential guard would have 60 seconds to observe what was on the table. Then I would cover it up, and ask everyone to write down what they remembered being on the table. I was constantly surprised that people remembered less than five items. Some would remember ten or so, but only a few would be able to recall more than that. This little skill is a great way to work on visual observation and memory, but how else can you improve your observational skills?
- You should develop your observational powers because it leads to more knowledge
When you use the information that you have observed to make informed decisions, you usually make better decisions. This is because you are armed with knowledge, and aren’t proceeding blindly into a situation. No one likes being blindsided, and having keen observation skills can alleviate that feeling of waiting for a shoe to drop. Knowledge and information is power, and you can achieve so much more by simply being more aware of the world around you.
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