38/250 The power of observation

Aka Foot-In-Mouth

As I walked into the networking event, it was already in full swing. I’d gotten there early; but the venue was such a huge place, and signposts were tucked away so far, that I assumed nobody was there. I found a couch in a nook, pulled out my phone, and handled whatever business I could.

Which, you know, is a surprising volume.

I discovered that the first time I made the conscious decision not to take my laptop to town with me one Thursday. It’s kind of weird to sit in a coworking space with only two phones and a notebook, but it’s intensely liberating. Remarkably, not having the pressure of creating client work in between meetings has been better for both my productivity and my happiness on Thursdays.

But I digress.

Time ticked away. The couch was warm and cosy. I ended up finding the event and joining people fifteen minutes past the start time.

Barging into the room, I walked up to the first open group of people. You know what I mean by that, right? An ‘open’ group is a group that hasn’t formed a closed ring: It’s open for others to join. I walked right up, said sorry not sorry for interrupting, and introduced myself.

Everyone did their rounds of names. Hi, I’m so-and-so. My name is blah blah.

Then an awkward moment.

The woman to my left took charge. Facing the woman straight in front of her (the one to my right), she asked, ‘What do you do?’

This lady’s face fell, just a touch. She looked at the ground, just briefly. She said, almost apologetically, ‘I’m a financial planner.’

‘Whoa!’ I ejaculated. ‘That’s obviously not a good thing!’ I laughed, touched her on the elbow in mock concern. ‘Don’t you like your job?’

Her jaw hit the floor. The other two ladies looked at me in astonishment.

It took my subject a while to recover.

‘Well, actually, not really. It’s hard work. It’s highly regulated.’ And after a bit more work-related small-talk, she stated with a sparkle, ‘I prefer to work on my side-business.’

And that, ladies and gents, is how we learned that this lovely woman who works full-time as a financial planner, would work around the clock on her interior design business if she could.

After this moment, everybody else who came up and asked what everybody did for a living received peals of laughter in return. One by one, each person told the story of this woman who hates her job as a financial planner and is secretly an interior designer.

And one by one, each validated this woman’s drive.

‘Ohhhh that’s so GOOD,’ they’d drool. ‘So much more creative and fulfilling.’

Later on, she said to me: ‘Well spotted. You’re good at reading body language.’

In my experience, observation is one of the world’s least-developed skills. It’s the kind of muscle that you have to build on purpose. And in my line of work, it’s essential. You don’t get to the point where you can make people forget they’re in an interview by not being observant.

Observation isn’t just a matter of watching what is going on. It’s reading everything about a person, a group, a situation. And it’s feeling the energy of an interaction.

Now, the thing is, this is a great skill to have when you’re in front of people. But how is it beneficial if you’re behind a computer screen all day?

I’ll give you a clue:

If you are observant about the world, then your entire approach to marketing will change. You’ll realise that the people you’re trying to ‘convince’ are just people like you. And, like you, are dreaming about their couches and movies and heaters and pizza on a Friday night.

If you want to learn more about that kind of stuff, sign up to my daily tips list where I talk about. You can do that at https://bit.ly/daily-tips-email.

If not, ponder it over the weekend.

How might your world change if your observation skills levelled up? I’d love to hear what you think.