The Power of Observation
Do you recall in the stories of Sherlock Holmes and how he always seemed to have the ability to quickly read a situation and come up with a theory, that to everyone else, seemed impossible? How was he able to do that? He took great pride in observing people, places and situations. Anyone can become a good observer but it can be a really valuable tool when you have a child who is challenged ADHD characteristics. As we continue our series into the Five A’s for Change–Awareness, you will understand how careful and meaningful observation adds to the importance in understanding yourself and communicating better with others.
Increase your powers of observation
Most people don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the world around them. They are usually too busy thinking about what they need to do next and dealing with everyone else’s need for this and that. What makes a detective good is the ability to slow it down and take notice of the small details that surround them constantly. Once you begin to sharpen your eyes and ears for certain details, you’ll find them popping up everywhere. You’ve probably experienced it before—when you buy a red car, suddenly you notice red cars everywhere. To be a good detective, you must learn how to sharpen all of your senses.
First you need something to take notes on. Don’t expect to keep all the details in your head—ever! So find something that is just the right size for you to take several places with you. Some guys like the pocketsize pad of paper, while women might like a larger size that fits inside their purse and is easy to write on. I like the 5”x7” size because it just fits in my purse.
Putting your observational skills to the test
Next, let’s do an experiment outside. Find a place where you can relax for a few minutes. I want you to quiet your mind and try to use all of your senses. Take about 2 minutes to first close your eyes and take in all the sounds, temperatures, sensations, and feelings that you notice….everything. Then after those few minutes, open your eyes and look around. Write down as many of your observations, as quickly as you can. How many things did you notice or feel? Count them up and put that number on the t0p of your page. Now, do this all over again and see if you can double your observational skills. Were you able to sharpen those skills more?
You will notice that this is easier the second time around. This is because you know what to expect. You understand that ALL of your senses had to work together when you practiced this the first time. The more you do this, the better you become, especially when it comes to sensing things inside your own body that you just never paid attention to.
Now, imagine for a moment how an ADD person, who has no filtering system, must feel in most situations. So many of the things you wrote down, they experience constantly! They can’t turn it off unless they are fortunate enough to have the right medication to help them or they have taken the responsibility to work hard at learning how to cope. Experiencing this gives you an added edge when trying to help your ADD child understand how he/she thinks and feels. It will help you to understand what kinds of questions to ask them when needed.
Using your observational skills
Now that you have experienced what it’s like to take in everything around you, put your new skills to the test with your family members. Watch and listen for subtle hints of frustration or sadness. Look deeper into the eyes of your ADD child. Does his/her words really reflect how they feel right now? Do you ask open-ended questions that prompt communication, to think, or to express how they really feel? Do you see patterns in behaviors, eating, sleeping, socializing, or attitudes? Are you writing all of those things down as you notice them?
Assessing what you’ve observed
Sometimes the only way to see patterns develop is when you have the evidence right in front of you–in black and white. Now you will begin to really see the power of observation at work. Take time each week to tally up your notes, highlight with various colors, and add notes to those things you need to keep a closer eye on. Share with your child what you’ve observed. Ask if there are ways you can help to make things easier. Use your observation log to discuss areas of concern and areas of celebration.
Being mindful of your surroundings and others can be such a valuable tool to use almost anywhere. These are such great skills that are needed when you witness a crime or an accident. They are also very helpful when you want to help your ADD child figure out ways to create new habits or study smarter during homework time. But in general, these skills help you, the observer, to empathize with your spouse, coworker, and everyone else around you.
Challenge yourself to slow down
I want you to challenge yourself now to slow your life down and “smell the roses” on the “other side of the fence”. You’ve been told that it’s always greener on the other side, right? So take the time to observe what’s really on the other side, and perhaps you will learn to appreciate what you already have on your own side! So, take the challenge and put your new skills to good practice.
For a continuation of the Five A’s for Effective Communication, please join us at http://www.onedegreeforward.com/blog. We are offering you a series of bite-sized chunks to help better your communication skills with your ADHD child, family members, school staff, and health care professionals.