post # 319 — March 1, 2007 — a Careers, Client Relations, General, Managing post
A manager I once worked with said that his key talent was not listening to people, but WATCHING them — clients, colleagues, superiors and subordinates — and understanding them better than other people would be able to do just by listening.
I was reminded of this insight as I reflected on my experience as a juror. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had been put into a strange situation for me. For the 5 days of the trial, I was forced to be an OBSERVER, not a participant.
Until the time came to deliberate on the verdict, I could not ask questions, I could not intervene, I could not discuss things. I was forced to be a WATCHER as well as a listener.
It taught me a lot. I earn my living through words, but I am increasingly coming to believe that we donâ€™t best reveal ourselves (or judge others) through words, but through other means.
Iâ€™ve never been trained to â€œobserveâ€, Iâ€™ve never read a book on it, and I donâ€™t have a natural proclivity for it. My wife can be with people at a party or family gathering and tell you things about what they are feeling that were never said out loud. She just â€œnotices.â€
Try this exercise: Just watch people in a meeting and see if you can answer these questions about them:
- How self-confident is this person?
- How would you describe their level of optimism or pessimism?
- What emotional needs do they have?
- What type of role would they function best in?
- Is this someone you would trust?
- Would other people want to work with this person?
Even if youâ€™ve never been trained in psychology and never read a book on body language, Iâ€™ll bet youâ€™ll get very close to the truth.
Which raises a series of interesting questions:
- How good a watcher are you?
- What makes someone a good observer?
- Can YOU figure someone out by observing them?
- What do YOU look for?