What you don’t see

seeI have to admit it, I’ve got it pretty good. Just down the hallway a percolator waits to be used every morning. At the top of the stairs a door opens onto a balcony overlooking one of Savannah’s 17 historic squares, Whitefield Square. I’m taking my coffee in the treetops.

From where I sit, Savannah’s dog population seems larger than the number of people living in the Columbia County village from which I moved in upstate New York. It’s a perfect vantage point to see dogs, walkers, bicycle riders, bench sitters, and to listen to the music filter through the leaves from the weddings that originate from the gazebo below.

Hey! There goes Becky’s greyhound. She’s unleashed him, and he just bounded across the square. Oh, and look, there’s a big, curly black standard poodle. Stunning.

I’m fairly visible, surrounded by various configurations of laptop, radio, newspaper, and coffee on any given day. People who know me, or are looking for me (hey, IRS, I’m up here!) might look up. But others, rarely. This is a city of beauty. Yet,there is a limit to what people see. What does that mean?

There are limits to perception. Having front-facing eyes means sharper binocular vision, but at the expense of a wider view, say, like a pigeon whose eyes are positioned on both sides of their head. We are chauvinistic. We think we can see all. We call it the visible spectrum. But that’s self-serving.

Birds of prey, like eagles and hawks and buzzards, rely on vision that is three to four times sharper than ours. Eagles may spot rabbits from several miles away, while hawks and buzzards can scan a field from a height of 10,000 feet and keep their prey in focus while diving at up to 100 mph.

A boa constrictor relies upon thermal vision and can sense the heat of their prey. And the housefly using compound vision can detect even the slightest movement better than we can.

In reality, we are limited by biology. And habit. Being aware of the strengths and limits of our perception can help in effective communication. Maybe if we had the eyes of a housefly, we’d detect that momentary lifted eyebrow or millisecond of a frown that would signal something is amiss. Or maybe we could have seen it, if we were only looking.

Effective communication relies on being heard. If not, you are handicapped.

Confirm. Want to delegate with confidence? A nod of the head may be belied by body language that says I’m too busy and wasn’t really listening to what you just said. Use your senses.

Listen. And Feel. Cold hands? That person just got in from the sub-zero temperatures outside, and maybe they need to settle in before having a discussion with you.

Smell. Burnt toast? Someone’s likely to be distracted and maybe upset. And in the office? Piles of paper on someone’s desk? Typing in the background?

Be like Columbo. Look for clues. Our limits to perception are sometimes a matter of just looking up.

Posted by Frank J. Mendelson | Business, Business Communications, About Us, Communications | Comments 0 |
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