Chris Parker

The Power of Words

The dangers of a casual glance

Before we can communicate and influence deliberately and positively, we need to see what is happening around us. When I talk about seeing I mean the process of gaining accurate insight. I appreciate others might use the term in different ways. I also appreciate that gaining accurate insights requires the use of all our senses. It’s just that I’m focussing right now on visual acuity.

Given that, cast your eyes over the diagram above and answer the question, ‘How many triangles are there?’

What answer have you arrived at? How long did you spend looking? One thing I do know for sure is that you cannot solve the problem accurately if you give it only a casual glance. Therein lies the challenge. We cannot gain accurate insights into those we are communicating with if we offer them only a casual glance.

It’s all too easy to give people, places, situations, nothing more than a casual glance, even when we mean to be attentive. Even when we think we have been. There are a number of reasons why.

Firstly, few of us have been trained rigorously and well in how to gain insight. Just because our eyes are healthy doesn’t mean that we know how to see and it certainly doesn’t mean that we know how to see consistently and constantly. Like every other skill, seeing requires a progressive training methodology and a willingness to practice. Stamina is developed over time.

Secondly, we are being bombarded constantly by a mass of stimuli. We manage this by deleting, distorting and generalising much of what we experience. We are encouraged by many sources and in many ways to seek out and accept the first obvious answer or interpretation, and it is easy to be influenced by that encouragement. Doing so gives us the space and time to move on to the next thing, confident that we have understood what is going on around us.

Thirdly, our current beliefs and biases blinker our perception. They make it easy for us to view what we expect to view, rather than what might actually be happening. Beliefs are essential. They underpin our worldview and our sense of Self. At their best they help bring out our most positive qualities, often in the face of adversity. However, they also make it easy for us to delete, distort and generalise. At their worst they create the most negative sort of tunnel vision.

Fourthly, our natural tendency to focus on ourself, on how we are feeling today, right now, on our own agenda, emotions and expectations, means that at least some of our attention is focussed inwards rather than what is going on around us.

The final reason for the sharing of a casual glance is familiarity. The more we are sure that we know and understand someone, or some place, the less we are likely to really see. Once again, the more we become accustomed to specific stimuli – people, objects, environments – the more likely we are to Unless it is managed deliberately and with great care, familiarity blinds.

So, how can we develop our visual acuity? Here is one simple and effective method. Like all things it requires a synergy between mind and body.

Physically, I teach my clients how to look just beyond the shoulders of those they are engaged with. Rather than directing their focus onto the physicality of the other person – their eyes, their face, their body – I teach them how to look just behind their shoulders. In one sense, then, I teach them to look into emptiness. This leads onto an increased and deliberate use of peripheral rather than vertical vision.

Initially some find it a tad unusual having been conditioned to look at someone or something not just beyond them. With a little practice, though, they begin experiencing very positive results.

What should we be thinking as we look beyond the shoulders? Ideally, nothing at all. We need to be silent, removed from those factors that encourage a casual glance. Just as the most irresistible words grow out of silence, so does the most insightful visual acuity.

If you want to show that you really care, if you want to demonstrate your commitment to working together to create the very best desired outcomes, give far more than a casual glance. Develop – keep developing - your ability to see. And never say that you will pay attention. Give it. Willingly and fully. It is the greatest gift.

Oh! Sorry. I almost forgot.

How many triangles are there?

See for yourself. The answer is in sight.

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