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2: Size Up Your Situation

What Are You Observing?

what are you observing about this situation

When you experience a transition, your preconceptions and emotions can cloud how you interpret events. Do distractions or biases influence the information you take in?

For example, you may be angry if your elderly parents are victims of fraud. It might be easy to blame them for their lack of security or blind trust of outsiders, but how precise are your observations, especially when you are in an emotional state? Were there any warning signs you missed?

When a major event happens, do your best to separate facts from interpretations and pay attention to other people’s reactions, even if they are not verbalized. How people respond to change depends on their backgrounds and experiences. Children, in particular, are strongly influenced by what they witness in adults.

Become a Better Observer

You don’t need to be a detective to be a better observer. Practicing your observation skills will help.

  1. Get out of your head. Focus on what is really going on, without interpretations, judgments or internal comments.
  2. Manage your distractions. Turn off the technology and really take in the situation.
  3. Engage all of your senses. Be specific as you note what you are seeing and hearing.
  4. Take notes. Pay attention to body language and nonverbal cues.
  5. Think about what you’re not observing. What or who is missing? What’s not being said?

Caution! Observe Without Interpretation

Focus only on what you are actually observing, hearing and sensing. Resist the urge to interpret or make judgments. For example, “I see that my brother didn’t care about Mom, so he shouldn’t get any inheritance,” is a judgment, but “I see that my brother didn’t visit Mom in the nursing home for two years,” is an observation.

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