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Observation and the Tone Scale

Observation is the action of noticing or looking closely at things. It’s something you do every day, but just because your eyes look at something does not mean you’ve actually observed it. Observation includes the closest possible study of what you are observing, and when looking to find a person’s emotional tone, observation is all you need to accurately know where he is on the Emotional Tone Scale.

The Tone Scale is an extremely useful tool to help predict how a person will behave and what he will do. But to do this well, you must be able to accurately observe and recognize the person’s position on the scale by just looking at him briefly.

The Tone Scale is very easy to apply when the person is loud or obvious about his emotional state.

For example, you could say that someone was angry last night because the person started shouting and threw a book across the room. That’s simple. Or let’s say you saw Mary break into tears. Obviously that one is easy to recognize as the emotional tone of grief.

But how about the tone level of a person over a long period of time. This is not the usual good manners and responses a person learns, such as responding with “I’m fine” when he is asked how he is doing. That is called a social tone. Social, in this use, means the way people in groups behave and act when they are together. A person’s social tone depends on his education and the behavior he has learned from his friends or family that he uses to present himself to others. On the other hand, behind the person’s social tone is his actual tone level—the one he is at in his day-to-day life. With practice, you can see through a social tone and observe the actual tone level of the person.

How do you do this? You do it the only way you ever see anything: you observe the obvious. You look at something just for what it is, for what is actually there. The ability to observe the obvious is easy to learn.

How do you teach somebody to see what is there? One way is to put up something for him to look at and have him tell you what he sees. A person can practice this on his own or with a group, such as a class. On his own, he could simply select a person or object and observe what is there.

A teacher wanting to teach students how to observe would ask one of the students to stand up in the front of the room and have the rest of the students observe him. The teacher stands by and asks the students:

“What do you see?”

The first answer might be something like this:

“Well, I can see he’s had a lot of experience.”

“Oh, can you? Can you really see his experience? What do you see there?”

“Well, I can tell from the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth that he’s had lots of experience.”

“All right, but what do you see?”

“Oh, I get you. I see wrinkles around his eyes and mouth.”


The teacher accepts nothing that is not plainly visible.

A student starts to catch on and says, “Well, I can really see he has ears.”

“All right, but from where you’re sitting, can you see both ears right now as you’re looking at him?”

“Well, no.”

“Okay. What do you see?”

“I see he has a left ear.”


No guesses or ideas will do—only what is visible to the eye.

What you are trying to achieve with this drill is to just learn to observe the obvious. It is to help you get to the point where you can look at another person, or an object, and see exactly what is there. Not a decision of what might be there. Just what is there, visible and plain to the eye when you look.

This is a drill that you can do by yourself at any time of the day, anywhere you are, such as on a bus or train, in a restaurant, on the street or at work.

What a person does with his eyes can help you spot his position on the Tone Scale.

You can get a good idea of a person’s actual tone level by looking at what he does with his eyes.

At apathy, he will give the appearance of looking directly at a particular object for minutes on end. The only thing is, he doesn’t even see the object. He isn’t aware of the object at all. If you dropped a bag over his head, the direction of his eyes would probably remain the same.

At grief, the person looks sad and usually directs his eyes down toward the floor most of the time.

At fear, the person can’t look at you. People are too dangerous to look at. He’s supposedly talking to you, but he’s looking way over to the left. Then he glances at your feet briefly, then over your head (you get the idea a plane is flying over both of you), but now he’s looking back over his shoulder. He looks here and looks there, from place to place. He will look anywhere but at you.

Then, in anger, he will carefully look away from you with the idea to not communicate with you. When the person is a little higher up on the Tone Scale, he will look directly at you, but not very pleasantly. He wants to locate you as a thing to direct his upset at, especially if he is in anger.

Then, at boredom, the person’s eyes will be wandering around again, but not as fast or worried as in fear. Also, he won’t be avoiding looking at you. He’ll include you among the things he looks at.

With this data, and having some skill in observing people, you can next practice out in public places where there are lots of people. Start talking to strangers. Just stop them and ask them for directions or something. You can then quickly spot each person’s level on the Tone Scale. This is done to get practice and improve your skill.

An even better way to do this is to have a series of questions to ask each person and a clipboard for writing down the answers, notes, etc. It is like you are doing a survey for someone, but the real purpose for talking to people is to spot their levels on the Tone Scale—to accurately find their actual tones and their social tones. You can work out some questions to ask them that will break through their social training and education so that their actual tones become obvious.

Here are some sample questions used for this drill:

“What’s the most obvious thing about me?”

“When was the last time you had your hair cut?”

“Do you think people do as much work now as they did fifty years ago?”

At first, you are doing this just to spot the tone of the person you are interviewing—and many are the adventures to be had while doing this!

Later, as you gain confidence in stopping strangers and asking them questions, these instructions are added:

“Interview at least fifteen people. With each of the first five, match his or her tone as soon as you’ve spotted it. The next five, you drop below their actual tones and ask the questions and see what happens. Then, for the last five people you interview, you put on a higher tone than theirs.”

For example, say the person you go up to says in an angry way, “Sure, I’ll answer your questions—I have to wait for the tow truck anyway because my stupid car broke down!”

To match his angry tone, you could reply, also in an angry voice, “What is it with the world today with people making cars that break down! They don’t produce good work like they used to!”

And then continue, matching his tone as you ask the questions.

What can a person gain from these exercises? First, you can increase your ability to communicate with anyone.

At the beginning, a person can be picky about the sort of people he stops. You might only stop and talk to old ladies, or you are careful to not talk to anyone who looks angry or you only talk to people who look clean. But after doing the drill for a while, you’ll just stop the next person who comes along, even if he looks like he has a bad disease and might be quite dangerous.

Your ability to really observe people comes way up and a stranger becomes just somebody else to talk to. You become willing to exactly spot and place a person on the Tone Scale without being confused or hesitating.

You can also become quite good at asking questions at each of the emotional tones and communicating with confidence, which is very useful in life. It is also lots of fun to do.

Being able to recognize the tone level of people by just looking at them is an ability that can give you a great boost in your dealings with others. It is a skill well worth the time and effort.

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