There’s a big wide world out there. It is time to notice it and those living around us. The more we deal with the separation of hybrid work and hybrid lives the more important it is to notice others and react to what we are noticing.
Whether because of writing, consulting, my work in innovation or customer experience, I have learned the power of time paying attention to my environment and what is going on around me. When was the last time you looked up? Over the years, I realised that noticing is a habit. We need to step out of our self-absoption and pay attention to others, to our environment and to all the little things that might otherwise slip below our focused attention. Without the consistency of explicit attention, we will fail to notice.
Some times the clues that we need to notice are tiny – a person’s silence, an odd choice of words, the things that they are not saying or not doing. Because many of life’s issues, problems and challenges cause us to stop, withdraw or be silent, it can be harder for us to notice that people are depressed, fatigued or languishing. We can’t all retreat to the isolation of Walden pond even if it is tempting in our busy digital lives. In a world of exponential change curves, many changes start small until they are suddenly not. The sooner you notice, the sooner you can act.
Many times our busy rush means we don’t pick up on the clues or cries for help that others are offering. If we don’t notice, we can inadvertently brush away the first tentative reach out for help or for support. We can make it appear that others aren’t caring simply by not paying enough attention as we go about our lives.
A question I often ask myself “what story does this thing I notice tell me?’ Looking for a narrative, a pattern or a rationale behind the little things can help you to go beyond observation and develop ways that you might engage to learn more. Those narratives can help you pick up on incipient trends and inspire your own creative thinking about what is possible or what might be to come.
We are ever more dependent on our ability to notice when the bandwidth of our relationships is so reduced by hybrid working relationships. Checking-in, checking-up and reaching out become very important activities to support those who matter to us to continue with all their work and life activities. Related is the practice of thanking those who have helped and supported us. We need to notice those who are helping us to get by so that we can remember to encourage that activity and also to know who we need to call on in times of challenge.
Noticing is not enough. We may not perceive the situation correctly. We may not understand at all. We need to engage to better our understanding of what we see and also act to make change or help those who need it. Nobody who is struggling needs to be told that everyone notices that they are struggling and how tough that struggle may be. Much of the discussion around issues such as Black Lives Matter, Indigenous inequality, racism, gender equality or sexual harassment is a frustrating repeated pattern of the wider community saying ‘I noticed this (usually at last). It is bad’ and the directly affected individuals saying ‘I’m glad you noticed. I know it too well. What are you going to do?’
Challenging times increase our need to notice others, notice situations and notice changes. With a better habit of attention we can work to make life better for others through engagement and action.
So what do you notice and what will you do about it?