Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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It’s such a simple idea – knowing what is going on around you. So why are people often so bad at it?


I sometimes call it situational awareness – particularly when I am trying to teach somebody about what they have missed by paying less attention that was warranted. During one of my prior lives, I was forced to hone that capability to a fine edge. The trick is ‘being present in the present’ – meaning being involved and engaged in what is actually happening at the time.

The trap is the assumption of sub-text. It is a trap because it is unnecessary clutter that over-shades the clearer vision of what is actual.

There is enough information in the situation before you – you don’t need to embellish it with artifacts from your imagination.

What got me thinking about this was the melodrama that a friend seemed to feel necessary. During one of our conversations, she seemed clearly fixated on a particular point and just as intend on avoiding it. Although this may be a more acceptable behavior in inter-personal relationships, in business it is a waste of time at best and, most often, flat-out destructive. As I sat there watching my friend ‘dance around the Maypole’, I started to wonder if she had any idea what she and the situation looked like from a perspective other than her own.

She knew what she was concerned about – I knew what she was concerned about – and she was intent on cooping me into behaving as if neither were true.

What struck me most was the almost total lack of situational awareness on her part. I realized that she had a very limited ability to observe the situation as it included her and me.

Next time you are in either a business or social situation, try to gather all the information – be aware of what is going on around you. At first, it will be a real strain and often you end up acting disconnected – your efforts to be present in the present will take you away from that very present. But, with practice, situational awareness will become second nature.

Think of it this way – in any situation there is a mass of information. People who are highly tuned to the present come away with a very high percentage of that information. People who are not come away with hardly any but the most obvious. Which do you think will be better prepared for the next ‘present’?

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II