Be open and observant to learn from those around you

  • This orzo salad that I discovered at the deli is now one of my favorites.

    This orzo salad that I discovered at the deli is now one of my favorites. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted7/20/2019 7:30 AM

We can get lots of good ideas by watching other people, including strangers. This could be in a department store, at a wedding, in a restaurant, at a social gathering, or while walking your dog.

A simple example happened recently at my grocery store. I was waiting in line with my number at the deli counter. The lady ahead of me spotted a new salad, and said to the person behind the counter, "Oh that looks very good, but a bit expensive. I'll take a half pound."


So I looked and indeed it was appealing -- it was an orzo salad. It had black olives and fresh-looking vegetables.

The orzo intrigued me. It's a small rice-shaped wheat pasta Baheej introduced to me -- it's used in a few Nazareth-style meat or side dishes. So when my number came up next, I ordered some. Turned out to be delicious, and is now one of my favorites.

So sometimes getting new and good ideas is as simple as being observant, being aware of others, being open, and a little experimental.

There are many things we can learn by watching other people. In business, we used a method called Benchmarking. I learned it years ago when I was working for Digital Equipment Corp, the great inventor of VAX/VMS research computers.

Benchmarking is a quality-improvement technique where you go out and search for others who are doing some particular activity, process, or product better than you are. These better ways are called best practices. Then you go there and learn from them how they are do it.

The how is the key.

Well, this applies not only to business but to regular life. And we can use it to better cope with grief, and especially long-term grief.

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Here is how:

• Look for people who seem to be managing their grief in a more positive way.

• They may be close friends or relatives.

•They may be only casual friends or acquaintances or neighbors

• They may be in a hobby or church group to which you belong.

• Search them out in support groups

• Then meet for coffee or lunch and simply ask them how they do it. Take notes! You will probably learn a lot.

If you can, adopt those behaviors as your own best practices. This process is a great way to get new ideas and be more successful.

There are people out there who are doing better and those doing worse when it comes to managing grief. Better doesn't mean they are less bereaved -- they have figured out some ways of coping that may help you.

So the point is: Be open. Be observant. Even try your own benchmarking to see if you can learn, can do better, and be happier.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College, and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at


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