How many times have you left a business meeting and afterwards realized you remembered very few details? What color was the receptionist’s shirt? What was the first piece of artwork you passed in the hallway? Was your client left- or right-handed? Is any of this relevant?
My eighth grade teacher, Miss Slottke, did an observation exercise with the class. She instructed one girl to stand up and face the front of the room. Then, Miss Slottke stood a few feet behind the girl and asked her to describe the teacher’s outfit. The girl was stumped. She knew the teacher wore a skirt—sort of a gimme because Miss Slottke never wore pants—but couldn’t recall the color or anything else. I was extremely relieved I hadn’t been called upon. I had to study the woman’s attire myself. I can still remember her outfit to this day: a maroon wool skirt, a pink blouse, a navy cardigan and sensible black pumps.
Observation is a skill I am constantly attempting to engage. There are plenty of sites and speakers who will provide a list of techniques to increase your memory, but I don’t need to remember details forever. My head’s already full of a lot of useless information. I just want to be more present in the moment. Maybe it’s all the recent incarnations of Sherlock Holmes on television that’s inspired me to open my eyes and see things.
Regardless of the inspiration, I pay attention. While I don’t remember everything, I do try to retain some of the key items. Sometimes it’s important to help you understand the person or company you are meeting. When I walk into a room, I glance around quickly, taking note. This was helpful during the semester – I could gauge the mood of my students by their body language as they slid into their seats, and adjust the tone of the class accordingly.
At my friend’s condo, there is a sign in the elevator identifying the different parking levels by insects. It’s not a bad association idea, but I’m befuddled by the “spider” option among all the other lovelier options of bumblebees and hummingbirds. Snails are also questionable, but spiders rate higher on my creepy pests list. I wish whoever designed the sign had chosen a dragonfly or caterpillar.
How often do you notice signs, details, or other oddities in a day? And what you do think when something does stick with you – do you look for more?