“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” – William Butler Yeats
Look around you, what do you see? Nothing particularly interesting? Think again. Even in the doldrums of the mundane and commonplace, there is something that you did not see before, that you did not notice before, but that you would have, either in retrospect, or with a second look.
In a seasoned team, members tend to take each other for granted, and tend to be under the impression that their teammates are little more than open books. No surprise there. Unfortunately, having such a mentality can be counteractive to a team, especially where members begin to think that their understanding of a person is so complete that they can make decisions for that person.
There is a need to realise that humans are all complex beings, and that our understanding of another person will always be incomplete (unless you are a mind reader, of course), since our knowledge of a person is based on what we see and hear, which gives only a fraction of the complete picture – people are adaptive creatures and portray different selves depending on the situation.
To know a person inside-out, or outside-in rather, is thus nothing less than a Sisyphean task. However, it is not impossible to obtain a fuller picture of a person. All it requires is a person to expand his faculties:
Look, it is okay to watch that person, provided you do not stalk. We are all of us inquisitive, so let that scientific curiosity loose, and observe. Mannerisms and body language, the way he interacts with others and reacts to situations or words, a lot can be learned.
Listening to gossip about a person, especially malicious gossip, is something you should avoid. The only thing that gossip achieves is influence over your impression of a person by creating a false image. Whether that image is good or bad is inconsequential. However, what matters is that gossip prevents the formation of an accurate understanding of who a person is by creating ‘noise’ that is difficult to block out.
Thus, listen to the person of interest instead. After all, people like to talk about themselves. Give that person a chance, and he will reveal a lot about himself to you, even if he is introverted. This is the best way to learn more about a person, and you never know but something he shares with you may come as a pleasant surprise to you.
Last but not least, talk. It is good and all to want to be a quiet observer, but frankly, people want to know more about you just as much as you want to know more about them. It is a reciprocal kind of thing. You need to contribute as much as you want to learn. Plus, the team would benefit from knowing more about you. Of course, try not to make every conversation revolve around you. No one other than yourself would appreciate it.
So look, listen, and talk, and you will be able to learn things about someone you never thought you would ever know. In addition, it would help you avoid being found at a crossroad, not knowing what you said to offend a teammate, and how to reconcile with him, although the reverse is true too.