#BlogElul 9: Observe

#BlogElul “You see, but you do not observe.” Such a famous quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. What does that mean for someone who is trying to grow themselves?

In the original story, Holmes is chastising Watson for being unable to remember how many steps there are in a flight of stairs he has seen hundreds of times. That is a fairly trivial instance of lack of observation – in most cases, it really doesn’t matter how many steps are in a staircase. This is particularly true if you are not trying to be a master sleuth like Holmes.

In dealing with customers and colleagues, or indeed family members, however, a lack of observation can be a real handicap. A large percentage of our communication (some would say over 50%) is body language, and if you do not take the time and trouble to observe other people’s body language, you will be missing a lot of their communication.

Everyone is familiar with the bore who drones on and on about a subject that is of interest only to him or her, completely oblivious to the eloquent body language of those who are trying to escape. But there are many less extreme examples of misreading (or completely missing) of non-verbal cues from a customer or teammate, which can also lead to undesirable consequences.

So what can we do to increase our ability to observe and understand the non-verbal communication of others? Like listening, this is a skill that can be developed. Its most important component is mindfulness – a fancy word for paying attention. Take off the headphones and the sunglasses and actually look at the world.

Otherwise, like Watson, you may find yourself counting the steps over and over, but never understanding the significance of the staircase.

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