Get Out of the Fast Lane!

I traveled to Philadelphia on business this week – planes, trains, taxis and my automobile. I made it a goal to watch the activity of everyone around me – people I interacted with along the way. In my quest to help people to understand one another more effectively, I like to sometimes practice what I preach and step out and observe! As a “people-person,” I have to make a conscious effort to do this, but I always learn something when I do.

It’s amazing when you watch how fast the speed of life has become. Everyone, everywhere, was constantly checking their BlackBerry or iPhone and staring at the screen. Most of this was taking place while they were walking or talking to another person! There was a lot of fast walking with people trying to make a flight, or get to a meeting. I saw many people talking to one another with one looking over the other’s shoulder at something in the distance!

It occurred to me how difficult it is, and continues to become, in our “fast lane” society to take the time to slow down and put our focus on other people. I often catch myself making the kids lunch, while feeding the dogs and talking to my husband at the same time. Am I listening to him? How can I be? I can’t see his body language or facial expressions if I am busy doing something else.

It seems we try to cram so much into so little time and while we do, we multi-task, and focus on our technology. For three weeks I’ve been without a BlackBerry – it was stolen on my vacation and the replacement has been defective. I can honestly say, even as the busy working and traveling mom that I am, not feeling the “need” to check it has been liberating!

Our kids with their iPods and cell phones are losing the art of taking a long walk and just listening to the birds and sounds of nature. Most of us grown-ups have lost the art of simply sitting with our thoughts, or focusing on what’s happening around us. It seems we always have to be “doing” something and if we’re not, we’re unproductive!

In order to really understand others, and to apply the five secrets, I talk about the role of Interested Observer. Being an Interested Observer means that one does have to stop, focus and pay attention to what’s happening. I think for most of us, there is nothing more gratifying than having another person look into our eyes while we are talking, and show us they are truly listening.

As we move through our fast-paced lives, take some time each day to deliberately slow yourself down and go into Interested Observer mode. Watch what’s happening around you and try to watch it without judgment or the need to immediately respond. As you slow down, you notice how quickly everyone and everything is moving around you. Instead of feeling pulled into the rushing, step outside and observe what’s happening. You’ll see things you hadn’t noticed before!