I think one of the most important character traits that a person can have is being perceptive. The easiest way to define perceptiveness is the ability to perceive things that happen around you and act upon them to make a better outcome than what would have been. It is a very valuable characteristic to have, because it leads to many other good traits. Most obvious and important of all is that it minimizes laziness and selfishness. We all possess a certain amount of perceptiveness, and it is up each individual to make it blossom into a powerful and effective characteristic. The following is a list that I've come up with of steps that show how to become a more perceptive person.
1) Realizing that this world is not to care only about your own needs and pleasures, but also to care about other peoples’ needs as much as your own, if possible.
2) Doing things that people ask you to do not because you want to receive their praise or attention, but rather because you care about their needs.
3) Doing things for people without being asked, because you see what they need or want without them telling you.
4) Doing things (and sometimes not doing things) for people because you notice and perceive what they need or is best for them, including both physical and emotional things.
Examples of each step will be shown.
Here is one simple scenario that applies to each step: Taking out the garbage.
In step 2, you are standing in the kitchen and your spouse asks you to take out the garbage. Since you understand the truth of step 1, you get up and take out the garbage because you care about your spouse’s needs.
In step 3, you are standing in the kitchen and you see your spouse tie up the garbage and put a new bag into the can. You understand that the old garbage should be taken out, so you take it out.
In step 4, you are standing in the kitchen and you notice that the garbage can is very full. So you collect a few other things that are garbage from the kitchen table and counters, put them into the garbage can, and take it out, as well as put a new bag into the can.
In all of these scenarios, the same result is achieved. The difference is how it was achieved.
There is an obvious difference between step 2 and the others in that in step 2 you are only taking out the garbage because you were told to do so. This is of course a good deed, but it is lacking something. In step 2, all you are doing is what you are told to do, without any feeling for what you are doing. You are simply acting like a robot, and without the information being given to you, you would not have done anything. In step 3, you are starting to perceive things around you a little more. You understand that the reason you are here is to do acts of kindness for others, and therefore, you feel a certain pride in fulfilling your purpose. Since you see the opportunity to do an act of kindness, you seize it, without being told to do so. In this step, you are doing the good deed because you know that it is important to do. However, there is still a little bit lacking in this step as well. You are lacking the true definition of being perceptive. The true definition of being perceptive is always looking out for anything that can be done to help someone in any situation. In step 3, the only reason you do the good deed is because the good deed is literally put in front of you, even though it wasn’t told to you. So you are doing it because you see it, ready to be done. Which implies that if it were not put in front of you, you would not have done it.
Now let us look at step 4. In step 4, you are doing the good deed because you were aware of its presence, not because it was put in front of you, like in step 3. In step 4, there is nothing lacking in the accomplishment of the deed. You are doing it to its fullest measure. The only way you would not have done it is if it were not able to be done. But at the same time, the only reason you were able to do it was because you were looking out for it. You found the good deed. It did not find you. That is the difference between steps 3 and 4.
There are times when being perceptive is barely doing something, doing something that takes little effort, and sometimes even no action at all, just saying something. A good example of an act of perception that takes little effort but requires a certain level of understanding is the following:
You are sitting at a red light, and there are a few cars in front of you. There is a left turning lane with a turning signal on the traffic light. Your car is right where the turning lane opens up, and you notice that the car behind you has its left turning signal on. In this situation, you can move your car forward a little to let the car behind you enter the turning lane, thereby saving him time from waiting at the intersection for all the oncoming traffic to pass so he can turn. This act of perception, however, can only be done by someone who understands a certain concept that many people unfortunately have trouble comprehending. It is the idea that there are other people in the world, besides you, that have schedules, things to do, and places to be.
Another type of perceptiveness is through non-action. This refers to helping someone physically or emotionally without doing a definite action. The most obvious method of using non-active perception is words. “Thank you” is the first example that comes to mind. Saying thank you to someone who openly did something for you is more far-reaching than people think. But that is just level one of the two levels of thanking someone. The second, and ultimate, level of thanking someone is saying thank you to someone who did something that benefits you, even indirectly, and you never asked them to do it. This is VERY far-reaching, because it shows them that you see and appreciate what they did, even though it may not have been directly towards you. This goes hand in hand with complimenting, as we will see in the following example.
Level One Thank You: “Can you pass me the roasted potatoes?” “Sure, here you go.” “Thanks.”
Level Two Thank You: (Your sister set the table for dinner) “Hey sis, thanks for setting the table, it looks wonderful.”
As you can see, complimenting requires the same amount of perceptiveness as a Level Two Thank You. However, even in complimenting, there are several levels. The first level is hearing someone else say a compliment and you just “second their opinion.” For example: Person A says, “Mom, the stew is amazing,” and then you say, “Yea, it’s great.” This is nice, but it is obviously missing a lot. The next level is when you are person A in the above example. You yourself give the compliment. This is the level that most people consider to be the highest level of complimenting. But that is not so. The problem with a compliment such as the one in the above example is that it is so overused that it is almost considered wrong to not compliment an individual who prepared food and you are eating it. Now, of course, it is a good sign that we have reached that level of moral ethics that it has become so standard, but because of this, a higher level of complimenting has been formed. It is the level of complimenting someone for something that is not considered a standardized compliment. Some examples of this level are the following:
"The carpet looks so clean!”
“You did a great job of packing up the car.”
“Wow, you’re really good at fixing door knobs!”
Sure, these are the same types of compliments as in the food example, but these require a higher level of perceptiveness to be aware of them. And if you don’t believe me, then see it for yourself. The next time you find yourself as a guest or a host of a dinner, count the compliments about the food. And when you are in a situation such as the above three examples, see if there is even one compliment.
The common theme between 3rd level compliments, 2nd level thank yous, and Step 4 active perception is that for all of them, you must be aware and looking out for these things.
The key to becoming a more perceptive person is by understanding and believing that you are not any more important than anyone else, and through that, understanding that everyone else’s needs are just as important to you as your own needs. The highest level of perception is when the needs of other people become your own needs. Meaning, that you need that a certain person should have something or should be told something to make them feel better. Once a person reaches that level, then being perceptive is not as challenging as it seems. How perceptive do you have to be to realize that you need a tissue or are cold? Not so perceptive, because you perceive them right away. The reason you perceive them right away is because you are thinking about yourself and your well-being. So once you are thinking about someone else’s well-being, it shouldn’t be too hard to perceive what that person needs. And once it gets easy to be perceptive, then you know you have become a more perceptive person.