Being Dynamic in Observation

Being Dynamic in Observation

This post is about an approach to the question of how do we stay dynamic in our observations? As opposed to being static and appearing as if we’re listening and being attentive? There is a need to understand the actual actions and responses we should exercise observing our conversations. Our goal is being dynamic in observation to have understanding. Gaining a position that, at a later time, will allow us diverse interpretations and perceptions. We can then use these perceptions to respond,  to learn, and to take action. 


I want to say that being dynamic in observation can be used in a highly charged encounter (furious exchange). I am talking about an amicable (less than angry exchange) conversation between two or more persons.



Many times when I’m sharing my thoughts on observation and interpretations, I speak with others who believe that listening is about sensing. We sense with feelings,  observing the body language of the person speaking. We look at the person their eye for better contact. Repeat back to them something that they have stated, using their words. Mirror their body language. Respond with uh-huh and other indications that let the speaker know we are listening to them. While this posture may seem like listening, there are different ways for authentic listening and deep listening to happen. Precipitating a proper response, interpretation, action, and respect to the speaker. 

In a Harvard Business Review article, The Leadership Behavior That’s Most Important to Employees, Christine Porath stated,

In a study of nearly 20,000 employees around the world (conducted with HBR), I found that when it comes to garnering commitment and engagement from employees, there’s one thing that leaders need to demonstrate: respect. No other leadership behavior had a bigger effect on employees across the outcomes we measured.

These things are real, yet we treat observation and listening as if our only action is to focus on the person speaking. Full listening is much more complicated. We cannot avoid the chatter that occurs in our minds. The reason is that our brains are stimulated by what and to that we pay attention.  During the time we are triggered by the thoughts of other people expressed to us. We attempt to fight the stimulation to honor the dialogue taking place. This shallow attention may feel respectful, but it is not the deepest or highest engagement. We are not engaging in dynamic observation when someone is speaking.


My Experience

I must say my approach was nothing like this a few years ago. I had the outward appearance of being a good listener. You know, eye contact, smiling, parroting back what I heard, and mirroring body language. In truth, I was so ready to share my response that all my energy used on surface listening.  Keeping myself from bursting out with an interruption that would reveal my impatience. I needed to mature in my ability to move toward understanding.

Later I learned to focus on the words the speaker was using.  I focused on them by repeating them to myself as I heard them spoken. This action did reduce my need to respond immediately and paved my path in being dynamic in my observation.

Where Are We Going

It is the ability to stay in curiosity, frame questions in your mind, and take the position of a learner that brings us to an understanding on a more holistic level. Curiosity speaks to the interest of a seeker. You’re urging the speaker to communicate with you. Those who have curiosity are seen as being able to talk to more easily. Some may even say, “I felt like they get me.” We will ask questions in our mind while someone is speaking. Whether or not we’re asking questions about what the person is saying in our mind is the key.

Take note of this excerpt from Jeanne Armentrout of Training Industry –

Our senses and observation skills can provide us with robust information that helps us understand the people we interact with and their emotions.

Curiosity allows us to communicate on a deeper level than just our words. We are pulling all this together when we take the position of learner positions us to understand. This application does not mean agreement or disagreement with the speaker’s opinion.  The judgment of the communication is held back in consideration of the data gathered. What this does mean is I’m telling the speaker I hear what you are saying, before taking a position of interpreting what you mean. Let’s take the curiosity, framing questions, and status of a learner, and break each of them down.

Curiosity Dynamic

So, when I speak of curiosity, it is the type of engagement where you begin to ask, “what are they saying?”.  Internally it is an awareness of what a person is expressing to you. These questions are not necessary for you to speak out loud while the person is speaking.  This action is making sure you are not missing the “what” they are saying. The goal to set up for a deeper understanding of what they are conveying. Not looking to be technical on grammar or delivery, but to seek the highest level of interaction is understanding.

The idea of curiosity keeps us from being judgemental. When we are judgemental, curiosity has stopped. Be sure we will make a judgment after our observation. Only in an investigative posture can we begin to respect the time and give value to the person is taking to communicate with us. It is essential at this time to stay away from “What’s wrong with me or what’s wrong with them?”. These questions look for judgment and closure without engagement to listen.


Forming Questions Dynamic

The next dynamic response is to begin developing connection questions. These move to questions like, “What happened, What do I want, and What are the facts?”.

These are forming questions. Forming a question allows for the chance that the speaker will answer that question. It’s like a baseball player getting ready for a pitch, and you’re not sure of the pitcher’s throw, but you place yourself in the position to catch the ball. We understand that something’s about to be said to me, and not only am I curious about it, but I also want to go deeper. This deeper begins to form questions that make me ready for answers the person speaking may reveal.


Learner Observation

On the next level having the position while being curious while forming questions is to say you want to be a learner. Be aware that the most arrogant attitude one can hold is to believe one understands the depth in the messages that someone is giving before taking the stance that learning is taking place. The dynamic of observation from a learning position makes every interaction unique. When we’re in the learner position, we stay away from criticism, accusations, complaints, and all those things that close off from becoming more educated from our interaction.

We may even learn that we are there for no more than to be an understanding person and not for any other type of response. Now the answer is warranted means we’re in the flow with the person. We’re playing on the same court as in metaphorically, basketball or tennis, being that we are in the same room. It’s a learning position that causes us to say to the speaker your time is valued.


Call To Action 

By engaging in curiosity, framing questions, considering the answers, and taking the position of a learner, we become dynamic in our observation, as opposed to just having the picture of the stoic listener. The person speaking communicating to us may not be able to explain the difference verbally about their take-a-way in your encounter, but they express the difference. These elements acted upon together; we are dynamic in our observation.