(This blog post is repeated in our Article Interview section)
We asked several PI’s and police investigators “What is the most critical investigative skill for an Investigator?” Skills commonly mentioned were: communications, interviewing techniques, social skills, analytic ability, but observation quickly rose to the top of the list.
So what is observation and how can a PI improve this skill?
ob·ser·va·tion [ob-zur-vey-shuhn] noun
1. an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.
2. an act or instance of regarding attentively or watching.
3. the faculty or habit of observing or noticing.
4. notice: to escape a person's observation.
5. an act or instance of viewing or noting a fact or occurrence for some scientific or other special purpose
So how do you improve your powers observation?
Whenever you are engaged in an investigation make a conscious effort to be observant. Sounds simple but how?
1. Clear your mind of any pre-conceived ideas of thoughts about what you observing. A police colleague said that whenever he interviewed a suspect he always approached and observed the individual as if they were innocent. By doing this he was more open to catching statements, or facts that did not quite add up if the person was truly innocent.
2. Avoid developing tunnel-vision by making an effort to take a wide, panoramic view of anything you are observing. View the area immediately around the focus of your investigation. Be observant not only to body language when talking to someone, but observe how they are dressed, listen to how they frame their sentences.
3. Take notes. Duhh!!!! One of the best ways to increase your observation skill is to write down your observations. This causes you to think about what you are observing and focus and helps with number 4.
4. Slow down! Observe situations, people from different perspectives. To help, sketch scenes, diagram statements from people you interview and create timelines. This forces you to slow down and gain a better perspective increasing your observation.
5. Be inquisitive. Even when all appears normal ask someone more familiar with the setting or incident. A police investigator investigating a robbery by sudden snatching from a store register while the clerk was counting money asked a different clerk if it was normal task for a clerk to complete at that time of night. To her surprise the clerk said no, they only counted money when another clerk came on to relieve them. Inside theft-case solved!
Work on your powers of observation by making a conscious effort each day to be observant.
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