Noticing all of the little details in life isn’t always beneficial, as I’ll demonstrate to you. Still, there are many positives, the most significant of which being that many high level professions require an extreme amount of attention to the fine print. Below, you’ll find a little list of some of the (sometimes humorous) things only detail-oriented people do, and how they allow them to be successful in life.
1. They always proofread their work several times over.
I was always astounded in college by the fact that most of my classmates rarely proofread their work. Even when they did, they usually only did it once, and subsequently turned in papers with tons of errors. This amazed me, as I literally felt a compulsion to read my work several times over. Indeed, I had a fairly concrete process. I would write, proofread, sleep on it, read it again, and then read it aloud. Is that overkill? Possibly, but it led to many great papers!
One time during my professor’s office hours, they admitted to me that half of a student’s grade was determined by how well they wrote (structurally speaking). If an essay flowed and contained few grammatical errors, professors would give students the benefit of the doubt, even if their argument was shaky at best.
Whether you are still in school or not, remember to revise your work! Finish your essays, emails, memos, notes, reports or whatever it is you need to write, in advance and give yourself time to create multiple drafts. If you do this in college in regard to essays you aren’t really passionate about, you’ll eventually acquire the skills you’ll use when you start doing something that you actually want to do. This is why proofreading is important; not because it’s anything special in itself, but because it proves that if you care this much about a single measly paper, you’ll necessarily apply that care and attention to other things as well.
2. They remember incredibly random details that nobody else does.
I swear, there are moments when I feel like Sherlock Holmes out in the real world. Sometimes when I’m talking with friends, I get nostalgic and say something like, “Hey so and so, remember that one time you were walking with me to class and you talked to me about the way my sleeves bunched up all strangely?” Usually, they’ll just give me a blank stare and laugh, saying something like “ha ha…no I don’t!” At that point they either back away slowly, or walk with me in silence if they’re a decent enough friend.
Here’s another example. I was at a family gathering talking to some cousins, and I started reminiscing about something we did as kids, down to the minute details (like what time of day it was and some of the things we did; mind you, this was when I was around seven years old). None of them knew what I was talking about, completely forgetting about these (not so) cherished memories that I had hung onto for years.
As you can see, it’s not all fun and games remembering all of the details! Often you’ll find it can be a bit of a lonely existence. That being said, retaining all of this seemingly random stuff could definitely prove to be useful in a future job interview, or date. You never know when you’ll need that superfluous bit of information! Just ask any lawyer.
Although paying attention to these small details might seem like a bit of a chore and unworthy of your energy, it is helpful, because much like the aforementioned proofreading, you’re developing a skill that can be applied elsewhere, whether it be in your job or somewhere else. To give a more simplistic example, how many scientific discoveries seem obvious after the fact? All it takes is one person soaking up seemingly random details and ideas to produce a breakthrough that seems incredibly obvious in hindsight. Think Isaac Newton.
I’m not saying you should go out and start writing notes down every time you see anything slightly odd. However, to develop this skill, you should definitely put some effort into being constantly aware of your surroundings, making a mental checklist of things you find interesting or out of the ordinary. You never know when two and two might come together to produce four in your mind…
3. They can instantly match faces and voices seen and heard on television to a particular actor.
This one is fun. I don’t mean like, the A-list actors either. I’m talking about that obscure actor who showed up twice on LOST and played henchman number two. If I see them on some other show or movie, usually I’ll instantly (or close enough to instantly) be able to recall what I saw them in previously. Sometimes this gets annoying for other people since I’m always blurting things like “hey that guy was killed on 24,” or something else super pertinent when a TV show or movie is on. If nothing else, I get a lot of use out of the IMDB app on my phone!
Since I play video games a lot (who doesn’t), I also have a tendency to match voices. Bioware games, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age, are my favorite, and so I got a lot of my practice matching up the various voice actors shared between those games. When I play the classics like Knights of the Old Republic, I listen for them there as well, and usually I find them!
To master this fun little skill for yourself requires a crazy attention to detail that most don’t bother with. Though it may seem pointless to match actor faces and voices, it’s a neat little exercise that brushes up your analytical skills. If anything, if you can pay attention to the TV closely enough to play this advanced version of “Where’s Waldo,” you’ll surely start using that talent for more practical purposes as well, such as doing research (which I’ll expand upon further down the list).
4. Their ability to remember faces extends to real life too!
This summer I went back east to visit family for the first time in two years. While there, I visited many of the same places I had gone to on my previous trip. For the most part, the people working at these stores/ice cream shops were the same as were there before, and I instantly recognized them.
I’m not sure why or how I keep track of all these random people; it probably has to do with my introverted nature. I’m usually observing and thinking about things rather than opening my mouth, so I suppose I have my “record” function on more than most people.
In terms of the practicality of this ability, it helps when attempting to remember a particular congressman, voices on the radio, sections of the constitution, etc. Really, when you’re paying attention to the faces of people working at the local ice cream parlor, you’ll necessarily be soaking up all of the important stuff too! It’s a great skill to have if you want to be a politician one day, as we all know their number one talent is remembering faces and names (ha).
When you’re looking at the world like a detail-oriented person, it’s like seeing everything with Terminator vision; everything you see causes you to access some strange memory or make a connection in your mind. You start to mentally question everything that you see.
Though this can sound tiring to some, once you’ve done it long enough it really becomes second nature. Scrutinizing everything you see while out and about definitely has its benefits, especially if you have a job that requires you to put a microscope to things on a daily basis (both figuratively and literally). That famous Thomas Jefferson quote is “question with boldness.” Do that 24/7, and seeing the invisible will become a much easier task (that’s a very Morpheus-esque line).
5. They are insanely good at reading people’s emotions and intentions.
As socially inept as I pretend to be, I’m very good at reading people, and I suspect this is the case for many detail-oriented people. With all of the attention paid to random details and faces, this really shouldn’t be a surprise.
Detail-oriented people are always calculating, usually analyzing you as soon as you walk in the door, picking you apart mentally. This usually gives us an advantage, because based on outward appearances we appear to be fairly innocuous.
All the while, we’re matching your face to other similar looking people, watching how you walk, how you talk, and determining whether you’re approachable or arrogant. This all goes down within the first few seconds of meeting you.
I suppose this lends credence to that whole “first impressions” thing. Better put your best foot forward all of the time on the off-chance that you encounter a super detail-oriented person! Now that I mention it, this is a very useful skill to have for job interviews…or for any job that requires an advanced level of human interaction.
To make use of this skill for yourself requires a ground-up approach. By that, I mean that once you start questioning everything, proofreading that boring essay your professor assigned, and paying attention to what people are doing around you, you’ll begin to develop the skills required to execute the kinds of split second determinations that many detail-oriented people make on a daily basis.
6. They are great at discerning different types of accents.
Now, I don’t mean to say that detail-oriented people are any good at doing accents. I know I’m not, at least. They’re just proficient at discerning one accent from another, and not something simple like Southern U.S. English versus British, either. I mean Pennsylvanian versus Californian (the difference is in how they ask questions), or even Northern Californian versus Southern Californian.
While this isn’t too practical of a skill in and of itself, it’s something detail-oriented people often do as a habit. Since they’re constantly questioning everything and trying to notice anything out of the ordinary in their environment, a new accent will stick out like a sore thumb.
7. They are a stickler for minor grammatical errors, such as using “which” instead of “that.”
This sort of goes back to the whole proofreading thing, though I figured I would take a little more time to expound on this particular point.
To most, the sentence “the ship which crossed the Atlantic sunk on the third day of its voyage” sounds grammatically correct. However, as a general rule of thumb, “which” is only used either after a comma or after “in” or “of.” The correct sentence would be: “the ship that crossed the Atlantic sunk on the third day of its voyage.”
Does it really change the meaning of the sentence? Not really, but these are the kinds of things that detail-oriented people will pick up on, since they’re pre-programmed to analyze everything in front of them to the nth degree and then some. As with the point I made for the more generalized example I gave about proofreading, caring about the difference between “which” and “that” may not seem like a big deal at first, but it’ll eventually lead to the development of more advanced analytical skills.
8. They always ask critical questions to themselves when studying, reading, or working.
Though detail-oriented people can sometimes over-think things, at least compared to the more big-picture types, their tendency to look at everything with a discerning eye often allows them to rise above their peers. Remember those Cornell Notes you had to do in middle school and high school, where you wrote your thoughts down in one column and questions in regard to those on the left? Well, detail-oriented people apply that mode of thinking to everything they do. Whether they’re reading a novel or creating a lesson plan, they’re always asking questions, determining holes in arguments, finding logical fallacies, and looking for ways to streamline complicated processes.
How can you develop this trait for yourself? Simply put, begin questioning everything around you. Why did the author use that word instead of this one? How can I improve this or that system where I work? Could something be done more efficiently? Is that person biased? What do they have to gain be saying a, b, or c? Am I biased? Where am I getting my sources? What’s missing from the equation? This line of questioning could go on for a while; suffice it to say, the key to thinking in a more detail-oriented way is to start questioning why things are the way they are. Never assume anything, and you’ll be taking a great first step.
9. They love being micromanagers.
Detail-oriented people aren’t necessarily great at group projects, because they often resort to trying to control every aspect of them, either because their comrades are incompetent or they (mistakenly) believe in their inherent superiority. Think Steve Jobs. Still, while you may not like them personally, there’s no question that the more detail-oriented among us often get the job done in the end.
To become a great micro-manager, you simply have to care about what you are doing. When you are passionate about something, you’re going to want to make sure it succeeds, which means you’ll try your best to ensure that no aspect of it fails. Whether you’re putting together a group paper in college, or developing the next great piece of technology, it’s much easier to be a stickler for the details when you actually believe in the significance of what you are doing.
Personally, I find it much easier to write a paper about a topic I love, like U.S. Colonial History, over something like Medieval Russian History. Even though I’d consider myself to be a detail-oriented person, I’d pay much more attention to the former project than the latter. So, the key is to choose what you like to do, once that’s done, paying attention to the fine print becomes an easy task!
10. They see patterns easily, given enough information.
I worked with a professor who made a database tracking the voyages of several thousand slave ships. In that database, he collected a smorgasbord of information, such as the type of ship, how many slaves were in each, which ports they departed from and arrived at, the person who sold them once they disembarked in the Caribbean, etc. Looking at any one shipment wouldn’t have told you much of anything, but after reviewing several thousand of them, he was able to see different patterns and make certain conclusions, all of which eventually culminated in a book.
The key here is that it took lots of detail-oriented labor to get to that end result. Only by compiling thousands of pages worth of data, and asking himself several notebook’s worth of critical questions, was my professor able to make the conclusions that he did.
This sort of combines a bunch of the points I made earlier. Detail-oriented people pull in lots of data, usually in regard to something that interests them, and pick it apart bit by bit like a wolf with a turkey leg. Then, they take what they learned, using everything they’ve worked on up to that point, to create a finished product. As mentioned earlier, the culmination of this process could be a book, a start-up, a new piece of technology, anything really.
To become that person, all you need is a bit of dedication, which should be easy if you find something you are passionate about, like Steve Jobs with his computers or my professor with his research. When you care about something like that, it becomes easier to ask all of the questions that detail-oriented people ask, and once that becomes a habit, it’s a skill that never truly leaves you.
While I’m sure I could go on with this list ad infinitum, I’ll stop now for the sake of your (and my) sanity. I think you get the idea though. Detail-orientated people are all about…the details! Is this a positive? I’d say so, being a bit detail-oriented myself and knowing others like that as well. Though it’s always nice to get the big picture, keeping track of the details is what makes the world go around!
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