By Stephen Cheney
The human body has sensors all continually inputting to the brain. But those impulses are also competing for the brain's attention. The brain sometimes shuts some inputs off in order to focus on those that it wants. When a friend is talking you may focus on that and exclude hearing a door opening. When a friend is nagging you, you may not register what is said, your mind listening to the remarkably interesting calls of birds far in the distance. When you are communicating with someone while they are observable by you, you register their body language somewhat subconsciously. You don't have to know why or how, just register impressions overall. This subtle sensing feeds information of meaning to the brain and assists you to make judgements that may turn out to be correct even though you may not be able to explain why.
In a boardroom or a meeting with competitive others, not ignoring but reading or feeling the mood of all the participants may change your intended strategy on the spur of the moment: as whatever you do or say only has effect if it links into the current state of the receptors of others. If you are the speaker and the mood of the room is too somber you might try to lighten up that mood a little and put the participants at ease. If you felt that there was going to be some hostility towards you, there is an advantage in diminishing that opposition by immersing them in a crowd that has a different mood to theirs. If the bulk of a meeting approves of you then a heckler against you is registered as a heckler against the crowd. People do tend to be persuaded to change their behaviour depending on the mood of the group that they are in. Herd instinct, crowd control. If you feel that the participants are too flippant and that you need their serious attention, then you may engage in a preliminary talk to reset their minds into the seriousness of the occasion or subject matter. As launching into your main subject too soon will only get it wasted on inattentive minds, and as they did not pay much attention to your main talk in the beginning it will then be harder for them to follow what you are saying later, as they had missed important and maybe necessary material beforehand. Before any talk, it may be useful to check if the general mood of the others is appropriate for absorbing the material to be covered. A person may be saying something ordinary, may hide their emotions, but yet you still pick up the impression that they are, for instance, upset, and adjust your reactions and words accordingly. That is a personal situation awareness.
Similarly in combat you can have an environmental situation awareness. Surveying your local environment you see nothing that specifically signals danger, and yet you sense danger and become extra cautious, even to the point of signaling others to take care.
These impressions you translate into subconscious 'feelings' rather than the more understandable and so more reliable conscious 'readings'. However, feelings should never be ignored, especially in a combat environment. You may not hear a dangerous sound as it may be at the very distance or edge of your perceptions, but nevertheless your mind is receiving this clutter of which it cannot as yet make any clear sense. Awareness should kick in, that even though you do not have a clear reading, you do have a vague impression, and it should never be ignored in a danger zone. It could make a difference to your survival. Even if your acting on such impressions is only to become more alert than normal, and not actually start to take actions to assist you to meet a threat.
Threats don't normally start right beside you, they come in from a distance, or you are moving through distance to them. It is when they are first near in the grey zone where neither you nor they are certain of anything, that you need to trust your senses and sharpen your wits, and sharpen your knife, weapon (or commercial instruments of influence, collective resources), movements and communications with your team. As what are you there for, after all, in serious business meetings or in combat, but to meet and overcome dangers of any kind?
(Source of Image: Google Images)