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15 Things Only Incredibly Observant People Would Understand

15 Things Only Incredibly Observant People Would Understand

I’ve been watching a lot of the new Netflix series “Marvel’s Daredevil” lately. If you know anything about the show (based on the comic book series by Stan Lee and Bill Everett) you know that Daredevil Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) is a blind vigilante who prowls the streets of New York in a black mask to protect the city he loves. In one scene, Matt stands at the open window of an abandoned building, listening to and identifying every strain of sound on the street below from the precise pitch of whining fire engines and police vehicles to snatches of conversation. He can tell whether or not someone’s telling the truth by listening to their heart rate, and midway through the series *SPOILER ALERT!* he tells his best friend Foggy Nelson that he first felt motivated to take on his Daredevil persona after he heard a girl crying in an apartment building several blocks away.

While it’s highly unlikely that even the most observant person can use their senses the way Matt Murdock does, Matt Murdock is a perfect example of what goes on in the observant person’s brain. Very often we associate observation with vision—with using our eyes to take in the world around us—but being observant is much more than seeing. It involves turning on our brains at full power and soaking in the world with every molecule of our bodies. Observant people notice everything from the most insignificant speck of dust to the woman on the bus who smells like she showers in her favorite perfume. This level of sensory awareness can be at once a blessing and a curse because noticing everything means having to concentrate more diligently to filter out background noise or unimportant details to prioritize information. Here are fifteen things only incredibly observant people can understand and that everyone else can learn from if you pay attention!

1. They practice deductive reasoning

Let’s use another famous example: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic consulting detective, the one and only Sherlock Holmes. Well-known for his powers of observation and deduction, Holmes famously tells his clients not to leave out a single detail when relating their problems to him, even the most seemingly insignificant trifle, for as he often says, there’s nothing so important as trifles. He can tell that Watson’s had a cold from the fact that he’s lost weight and his slippers are scorched from warming his feet before the fire, and in his very first case, A Study in Scarlet, he manages to catch a murderer by, among other things, identifying the tobacco ash left at the crime scene.

While observant people might not regularly use their skills to solve crimes, this just proves that attention to detail can make you more attuned to your surroundings. Observant people might be more likely to be considerate of others as a result. If they notice that a coworker comes into the office with mismatched shoes, for instance, they might deduce from this detail that the person left the house in a rush and maybe isn’t having the best morning, so it might not be the most convenient moment to bring up that looming project deadline.

2. They can tell when you’re lying

Observant people notice body language: posture, eye contact, facial expressions, and changes in breathing. It’s a common belief that when we lie, we don’t make eye contact with the person we’re lying to. You can’t hide anything from an observant person. Matt Murdock can tell when Foggy wants to say something but changes his mind just based on the change in his breathing. So if you have something to say to an observant person, just spit it out; they’ll drag it out of you eventually anyway and you’ll feel better for having gotten it off of your chest.

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3. They practice mindfulness

All of us are probably guilty of checking our phones or playing Candy Crush while we wait for the subway or stand in line at the supermarket because we can’t stand boredom, but for observant people this is just an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Whenever they’re still, they use that time wisely to hone their senses, soaking in their surroundings, taking in the intricate beading on the shoes of the woman standing in front of them or the way the man seated across from them at the bus stop keeps nervously combing his fingers through his hair. Sometimes they even like to make up stories; maybe the guy is meeting a secret lover, or maybe he’s nervous about a job interview. These games keep the mind active and help observant people to remain grounded in the moment.

4. They’re great listeners

If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not to take that new job that requires a cross-country move or if you’re having problems in a relationship, observant people are great to have around. We all know that conversations aren’t just about talking, listening, and responding. We need to engage the entire body and mind, not just the ears and mouth. Since observant people tend to be better at grounding themselves in the moment, they likely have excellent focus and are therefore more likely to be fully engaged in a conversation. They’ll nod, make eye contact, and ask questions when appropriate to indicate that they’re fully engaged. Such active dialogue lends itself well to problem-solving because you can talk through the situation and examine it from different angles.

5. They have better organizational skills

This characteristic can sometimes be mistaken for obsessive-compulsiveness, and it’s just a natural side-effect of being attuned to one’s surroundings. Maybe you remember that old episode of “Full House”, after DJ and Steph accidentally punch a hole in Danny’s bedroom wall and try to move all of the furniture in the room to cover it. When he notices something is off, his first words are “Who moved the baking-soda in my underwear drawer?”

Since observant people notice everything, when something is out of place, it throws the universe out of balance, but part of the reason why they can remain so focused and productive in their everyday lives is because they have everything they need at their fingertips. No searching for paper-clips or turning their desk drawers upside-down to find a pen.

6. They have a strong sense of orientation

Since observant people always take in their surroundings, they’re excellent at spotting landmarks or points of orientation, especially in large or crowded environments. Always have an observant person with you when you go to the mall during the Christmas rush because they’ll be the most likely to remember where you parked your car, and they won’t be foolish enough to use non-stationary landmarks like the pea-green minivan plastered with political bumper stickers that might not be there by the time you finish shopping.

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7. They’re incredibly analytical

The thing about being incredibly observant is that attention to detail goes hand in hand with analysis. Observant people, like Sherlock Holmes, notice everything because everything is important, at least to them.

Let’s say you’re chatting with your incredibly observant friend about your recent vacation and exclaim, “Me and my husband spent the weekend at this great hotel!” Don’t be surprised if the friend responds, “my husband and I, not me and my husband. You can’t use objective pronouns in the subject of a sentence.” This might seem picky (and, yeah, it is), but you’re going to want that person around when you need someone to proofread the report or legal document you’ve just written because you know they’ll catch every mistake you made, not to mention the ones you didn’t realize you made.

8. They’re fountains of factual information

If their tendency to correct grammar in casual conversations wasn’t enough of a hint, observant people can be know-it-alls sometimes. They’re so used to noticing everything and filing it away in their encyclopedic brains that they forget that not everyone does this. So if you express surprise when they tell you that a pumping human heart is powerful enough to squirt blood up to a distance of 30 feet and the observant person who edified you responds with “I thought everyone knew that,” don’t take it personally. Just placate them by reminding them that not everyone is as detail and fact-oriented as they are. They like knowing that there’s a niche in the universe for their talent even if they’re frustrated when nobody seems to possess their depth of knowledge. Next time you’re playing Trivia Crack, you’re going to want them around.

9. They have better survival skills

You’ve probably seen people talking on the phone, texting, applying makeup, or fiddling with their iPods while driving. You’ve probably done it yourself. According to an article in Psychology today over time, as we’ve evolved and begun to rely more on technology and less on our bodily instincts, we’ve become less observant. That “little voice” that’s telling you to pay attention or that something isn’t right is really your limbic system kicking into gear.

Not following this basic human instinct can lead to accidents and injuries. The AAA Foundation reports that approximately 80% of drivers feel unsafe on the roads because of distractions, and federal statistics indicate that distracted driving leads to 5000 deaths annually from car accidents. Observant people know that distractions interfere with focus and are therefore more likely to practice situational awareness, remaining alert in situations that can be potentially dangerous.

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10. They love to people-watch

Observant people probably get told off for staring or being nosy when they’re in public, but people-watching serves two purposes; it keeps their minds actively engaged with their surroundings, and it offers creative inspiration. Since observant people’s senses are always tingling, they often find creativity, like writing or painting, to be a useful outlet.

According to Scott Kaufman, a psychologist at NYU, “Marcel Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books.” One of my creative writing professors in college used to tell her students to go to Starbucks with a notebook and eavesdrop on people’s conversations because there are stories all around us if we know where to find them, and observant people are great at sniffing out stories.

11. They’re great judges of character

Observant people are always attentive to social dynamics, and because they can read body language extremely well, they can determine pretty easily how people treat one another. They can tell when couples are truly in love by the tone in which they talk to each other or how closely they sit to each other. They can deduce how close a pair of friends are by the tone of the Facebook posts and Twitter conversations between them.

A friend of mine once expressed concern about a mutual friend’s significant other by saying, “He didn’t say a word to anyone the entire time we were at dinner, and he never looked at you when you spoke to him. He’s bad news.” When they broke up, everyone said the person had a sixth sense. Not really. She was just paying attention. Try it some time.

12. They have more keenly-developed comprehension and critical thinking skills

Observant people were probably the ones who breezed through tests in school, were the fastest readers, and responded the most quickly to answers in class. This isn’t necessarily natural ability, but the result of developing their observational skills. One of the biggest benefits to being so observant is that, according to Social-Psychiatry.com, all of that brain exercise strengthens the neural pathways in the brain, resulting in better reading comprehension and reading speed.

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This increases the ability to absorb and retain information, which is why observant people tend to have eidetic memories. When I was studying for my comprehensive exam as a Master’s student, I developed a reputation in my study group for being the quotation queen. Instead of looking up the page number of a book quotation, someone would read it to me from their notes, and I’d tell them what page it was on. It saved a lot of time.

13. They’re perfectionists

Sometimes the downside to being so detail-oriented is that letting things slide can be challenging. Observant people have to cross every t, dot every i, and proofread their emails five times, manually as well as with spell-checker. They have to practice their presentations fifteen times before they feel comfortable, but they’ll be the most productive people you can work with because they believe that there’s no point doing a job unless you’re going to do it right. This characteristic makes them great team leaders, trainers, and teachers because they can micro-manage and oversee what everyone is doing.

14. They appreciate the importance of repetition

Observant people can watch their favorite movies and read their favorite books over and over again and never get bored because they’ll always discover something new. Even if it’s as simple as noticing what color socks a character is wearing, that discovery adds a whole new dimension to the experience. Moreover, while observant people tend to absorb information more quickly, they’re also aware that something might slip under their radar undetected. This is why it’s always a good practice to read novels multiple times before writing a research paper about them and why rereading study or presentation notes multiple times is a smart habit to practice because the more you look at something the more deeply it becomes etched into your mind’s eye.

15. They have healthier relationships

This goes back to the importance of reading body language and relationship dynamics. Observant people can be more attuned to the rhythms of other people’s lives and bodies as well as their own and can thus pick up on mood changes and habits. They’ll be more likely to ask what’s bothering their partner if they notice a frowning expression or if a usually chatty friend has become uncharacteristically quiet or withdrawn. They’ll know that if you’re not a morning person that there’s no point trying to get a word out of you before you’ve had caffeine, and they’ll remember that the only thing that cheers you up when you’re feeling down is your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s. There’s no magic to this. They just care about you enough to take the time to observe how they can cultivate the relationship.

Featured photo credit: Girl Observing with Binoculars via pixabay.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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