The Furry Anchor Point: Behavioral Analysis Through a Canine Lens

April 25, 2017 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

Let me start by saying that the puppy magnet is real. I get it. You see a dog, you want to pet it. It’s natural. You see a puppy, you want to run up to it, pick it up, talk to it, snuggle it, name it, take it home with you and raise it as your own…

Time to get a grip. The truth is that, just like any environment or situation you might find yourself in on a day-to-day basis, interacting with someone else’s dog is a scenario in which any number of circumstances could be at play that you have to identify and decipher before taking any action.

Think of each dog you may encounter as its own anchor point, a furry, moving, wiggling, wagging anchor point. In theory, there are a limited number of select people who are “allowed” to approach that dog and enter into its personal space on any given day. The criteria for entering that space differs with the personality, temperament, and history of each dog. In my dog’s case, all you have to be is a human with hands that could be scratching him and he’ll let you approach him (if he doesn’t approach you first) with zero hesitancy. However, this is not always the case. Think of service dogs and police dogs on duty who are not to be approached, touched, or pet by anyone other than their owner or handler. Every dog you encounter should be treated as if they have that spatial boundary around them until you’ve gotten a read on the situation and made contact with the owner.

Let’s take the act of dog walking as an example, as it’s the behavior of a dog’s owner that is often the best indicator of whether you will be allowed into the space of the anchor point that is their dog. It’s no different than the scenario of approaching a group of people and using behavioral analysis to determine group relationships and dynamics. Dog walking is a situation that dog owners find themselves in likely multiple times a day, and it’s a scenario where you can use multiple principles of situational awareness to read universal signs of human behavior to be conscious, respectful, and ensure you have a good experience while avoiding potentially dangerous encounters for you and your pet.

Interactions with other dog walkers and their canine companions is perhaps one of the biggest wildcards that can come up during a walk. When a dog and their owner is approaching, think about the four clusters of human behavior Continue reading »

The Candy Bowl Theory

September 30, 2015 in Applying The Observations

In my professional experience, getting to know the people you’re working with is one of the first important and productive things that you can do when starting a new job. This isn’t only important in terms of making your day-to-day enjoyable, amiable, and fun, but it will also help you be more effective in your job moving forward. Discoveries such as who on your team or in your office prefers a two-word email versus a thorough, explanatory email, who likes to take charge and lead meetings, and who would prefer to sit back during group conversations and absorb, taking notes, all add up to better efficiency and a more ideal, humming work environment.

Beginning at a new office can be intimidating and, after that welcome lunch or quick introductory walk around the office, it can be difficult to proactively meet people until the time comes when you begin working on a project with them. It’s vital, however, that you make a pointed effort to do so. Simply having knowledge about other people can help you prepare for potential responses to stressful situations, plan more effectively for the completion of tasks, enhance your situational awareness, and ultimately make you better at your job. This proactive initiative to get to know everyone on your team and in your office doesn’t have to entail any elaborate plans, logistics, or fuss. It can literally come in the form of a candy bowl.

Yes, putting out Continue reading »

I’ll Take the Usual: Patterns and Routines of Behavior

November 14, 2014 in Applying The Observations

For over two years I went to the same Dunkin’ Donuts every morning outside of the subway station across the street from my office building in Midtown Manhattan. I was always there during the same hour of the day as the flood of commuters from the E and M trains stopped to get their coffee, breakfast sandwich, or donut, before heading into work, and I typically saw familiar faces in line with me each morning. Even in a city populated by millions of people, patterns of overall behavior, like those in the line at my Dunkin’, aren’t hard to find.

Patterns of more specific behavior can also be recognized when you pay close enough attention. I always thought it was amazing that the two women who were usually working at this particular Dunkin’ Donuts could recognize each of us “regulars” in line and, if we frequented there often enough, knew our orders by heart. From their perspective behind the counter, they likely observed hundreds of people every morning, but they could pick out those that they had seen before and those whose orders they had committed to memory.

I imagine that they could also tell more specific things about each of us, such as when one of us was running late to work on a particular morning. We were likely shifting and fidgeting, checking our watches, and looking up and down the line, mentally gauging how long it would take to pay for our coffee and get out the door. They could also probably tell when we were right on time or having a completely typical day, comfortably standing in line, perhaps checking our emails on our phones and absent-mindedly going through the motions of our morning routine. Thirdly, they could probably pick out if it was a day when we had to be at work early. Not only would we literally be there at Dunkin’ earlier than usual, but we were likely in a state of complete Condition White, perhaps even on the edge of sleep, with the drowsiness of the train ride not yet leaving our eyes. We were likely in a state of relaxation fueled by the normality of our routine and by simple bodily tiredness. In all three of these scenarios, though, the pervading cluster that I observed all of us everyday Dunkin’ patrons to be in was Continue reading »

Disgruntled vs. Dangerous: Distinguishing the Difference

October 7, 2014 in Assessing Individuals

After having spent over two years commuting from Rockland County to Midtown Manhattan for work five days a week, a commute that consisted of one car, two trains, a subway ride and a bit of foot travel, I was extremely relieved the first morning that I woke up and did not have to rush out of the house to make sure I caught the early inbound train. I wasn’t relieved just because it was a welcome break or because I got to sleep in for a few extra minutes. I was relieved because I realized that there were four hours each day (two hours on the way into work and two hours to get home) during which I no longer had to be on “high alert.” It’s not that I didn’t feel safe on the trains, in the stations or on the sidewalks of the city, but I certainly never felt fully relaxed either.

I count myself lucky to have never been a part of an “incident” while commuting. By “incident,” I don’t mean anything catastrophic or serious, but something as simple as being in the vicinity of an altercation or having an unpleasant encounter. I’ve heard stories from friends and prior coworkers about being knocked over by a person trying to beat them to an open seat on a train or being spat on in the subway. I have seen people kick the wheels out from under a fellow commuter’s rolling bag because the person dragging the bag was walking too slowly, people pushing over trash cans when they missed a connecting train and arguments that I was quite sure were one wrong word away from becoming full-blown altercations. This is certainly not to say that every commute was unpleasant. What it did mean for me was that I always felt that I needed to be at an elevated level of awareness so that I could consistently monitor those around me to feel that I had control over my own safety. In a situation where everyone was running to catch the next train and when platforms, train stations and sidewalks could be packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people, I found that the baseline for commuters was often discomfort caused by annoyance or frustration, and which was often amplified by the trigger of a train delay, cancellation or particularly crowded train car. Being able to distinguish when that discomfort escalated and crossed the line towards becoming aggressive and dominant, and knowing how I would react if I were to encounter it, was the key to my own comfort during my commute.

My view of the weekday commute into the city was that it Continue reading »