The problem with making assumptions is that it leads to errors and mistakes. Far too many people make assumptions and the result of this is that people are not in the habit of observing.
They get into talking about what should have happened, what did not happen, what they would have done, and what went wrong. They have low skills in observing what actually did happen. We say we want to provide great customer service that leads to customer satisfaction. Yet, we are not tuned into the fact that people we encounter are always giving us clues about their frame of mind and emotional state.
Real professionals take the time to observe what others are wearing, how fast they are walking, the expression on their faces, what they are doing with their hands, how they are moving their heads, where they are looking and so on.
If you are focused on capturing these kinds of things, it is infectious. When a person encounters someone who is trying to add value to them and who is focused on meeting their needs, instead of being focused on themselves, they will respond in kind.
If you replace inference with observation, you are beginning to lay a good foundation for being able to use Observe – Describe – Disclose.
Now let’s talk about describing. If you haven’t been practising observing, then when you start to describe something, what you tend to do is label. You come up with stereotypes and labels, which only serve to reveal your own ignorance and prejudice.
Labeling is a mental shortcut. It is the ability to observe and describe that will in ten years determine whether you get ten years of experience of whether you get one year of experience ten times over.
Being descriptive requires you to link tangible, measurable actions and characteristics to the perceived purpose of the encounter with another person.
For example, if you are a gas attendant and a customer drives into the station very quickly and is abrupt in giving you his order, you can have a choice. You can label him as rude or you can use your observations to tell yourself that this person may be in a hurry and to clarify and confirm that interpretation with the customer. If you said, ‘you sure are a rude person’, or if you acted in a way that let them know you thought they were a rude person, it would have a decidedly different effect that if you said, ‘since you drove in here fast and you are speaking fast, it appears that you want quick service, is that correct?’
Now let’s get to disclosure. Information is power. Too often we are in an inferring and assuming stance. The lack of validated clues and cues results in people being judgmental.
So, what will happen is that we will try to tell someone what they felt, thought, meant and so on instead of owning the judgment ourselves and saying, ‘here is my interpretation’ or ‘this is how what you did made me feel’. I’ve had many workshop participants in exercises designed to test their skills of observation, assume the speaker did not like some particular thing and tell him or they have characterized the speaker as inattentive, unmotivated, manipulative or the like. Predictably, these characterizations provoke a defensive response rather than one, which encourages collaboration. Most of us are engaged in activities, which require the cooperation and support of others to achieve success. Inability to disclose creates an unnecessary barrier to this collaboration. It can postpone or prevent that partnership for satisfaction. The reason we call Observe-Describe-Disclose Personal Power Tools is because they also represent the anatomy of good or effective praise.
Many people do not know how to give good praise It tends to be generic type of stuff such as nice going, good job and so on. This feels more like flattery or is at least incomplete.
What is the difference between flattery and praise? Try using Observe – Describe –Disclose when giving praise. Observe what the person is doing or has done, when it occurred and under what circumstances; describe how it added value at the time; and disclose how it made you feel.
People will never mistake that for flattery. When you do it like that, it is very powerful. Good praise is the single most under utilized and inexpensive motivational resource available to us all.
You can practice using it in performance appraisals, in negotiations, when delivering customer service and in performance management.