Noticing, Listening and Other Forms of Observation

“Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.”
Carl Rogers

“Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening … when you’d have preferred to talk.”
D.J. Kaufman

“We need to start noticing a few things”
The character “Jones” from The Noticer


In the book titled The Noticer by Andy Andrews the character named Jones approaches a young man who is homeless and living under a pier. Jones calls the young man by name, and Andy asks Jones, “So how did you know my name?” “No big deal really.” replies Jones, “I’ve been watching you for a long time”. Jones goes on to explain to Andy that he is a “noticer”. “I notice things that other people overlook, Jones tells him. “And you know, most of them are in plain sight.”

The remainder of the book is an engaging tale about the influence Jones has on Andy and other local townspeople as he weaves his way through their lives usually by appearing and reappearing unexpectedly when they are experiencing challenging times. Jones offers them “perspective” – a “broader view”. Jones observes…and he listens. To others as they refute his observations. And then he observes and listens some more and eventually he provides them perspective. And their outlook is changed.

How would you rate your skills of observation and listening when you are at work? Are they keen? Do you use them at all? Do you listen to what others have to say or do you tell folks what you want them to know? Do you take time to notice?

Starting Off On the Right Foot

You can learn a lot about people and their environment just by observing. However, you have to take the time. Most people move about their workplace with their heads down focused on the task at hand. Taking some time to get out from behind your desk and “notice” will help you learn a lot about your folks; about what they think and notice.

The easiest way to get information is to ask someone a question (we’ll pretend Google doesn’t exist). The easiest way to miss the answer is not to listen to their response. This happens especially during those times we think we already know the answer and keep on talking. When we do all the talking it defeats the purpose of our asking questions in the first place.

Silence is Golden

An article just published on addresses encouraging employees to speak up. It begins by stating, “Silence is not golden. To really know what’s going on, you need people around you to say what’s on their minds.” I totally agree with this statement. However, I find that while it’s easy to tell folks to speak their minds there are two chronic problems. They are…ahem… let me be clear in case someone isn’t paying attention…




I’d suggest that silence ISgolden especially when it’s employed by the individual who asks a question or encourages someone or some group to speak up. If the question is important enough to ask or the request for feedback is sincere then listening is the important next step. If you are afraid of what the answer may be or fearful the feedback will show a different perspective or perception…don’t ask. If you do ask (and you should) be prepared to listen, process the response(s) and respond in a timely manner.

Take the time and be a “noticer”. Ask questions and remember to take the time to listen to the responses. If you do others will notice that you’re paying attention. You might just change their perspective…and your own.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next month: Teachable Moments

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