People Observation is a term referring to the observation of people’s actions. It is also known as people watch. In this page, I will attempt to describe a great method that will improve your communication and social skills.
First, let’s define the term “people observation”. I don’t know if there is any official scientific definition for this expression or not.
I named this technique “people observation” as I feel that it describes better what it really is. Some of you may think that this is the body language.
Of course observing and analyzing the movements is the scope of the body language, but people observation isn’t limited to just this.
People observation draws upon in the following actions:
o Body Movements
o Face expressions
o Language – Behavior
o Way of thinking
o Political views
o Correlations of the above
People Observation: How and Why I Did it
Let’s say that I wasn’t so sociable in the past. I had identified my problem and wondered what my options were to change that.
I wanted to have many friends. Instead, I would be described more as a bore. So, I had to change my behavior to be more entertaining and spontaneous.
First, I started to read about body language and movement patterns that can reveal what people think. I learned many patterns and every time I was outside I was trying to identify them in others.
My greatest struggle was to keep my eyes open every time. You know, it was a bit difficult, especially in the beginning, to keep my attention on the movements of others.
You have to be careful not to be too focused while observing others because you will give the impression of a weird person. Also, you have to hear what other people say in order to make correlations between their movements and their words.
The body language consists of two major parts. The movement of the main body (hands, legs, posture etc.) and the facial expressions.
In the beginning of my observation I could only identify basic movements. When I was with someone who had performed a specific pattern at a particular time, the very next moment I was trying to confirm their current feelings at that time.
I just wanted to ensure that their movements had a meaning according to what I had studied. Of course I didn’t ask people directly what they felt; just indirect questions…
I kept observing people when I was outdoors. I reached at a level that I could simultaneously focus on my observation and give full attention to everything the other person was telling me.
Finally, I understood that this technique became a skill that was stored in the procedural memory system. Like driving. As you practice the technique you will learn the procedure and your mind will be capable of understanding other people’s reactions even if your attention is not focused on the technique.
This is great, as you will have a permanent intuitive feeling about the people you meet which will always be correct. You will have an advantage in your debates with others and you will communicate better.
Now we will see the steps of the method and how to implement the method in your everyday life.
The “People Observation” technique
Now, I will try to present you the “people observation” technique as better as I can..
As mentioned earlier, I focused my attention on several actions. The first two are parts of the body language.
You need to detect some particular movements of the body language. Buying a decent related book will do the trick.
First, learn the movements of the main body, as they are easier to detect. That would be an easy way to start. Try to recognize specific actions (2 or 3) every time you are outdoors.
Patience is gold. There is no point in reading the whole book in a week and expecting to apply its techniques immediately. It is just not possible.
Remember, this is a procedure and your mind needs time and repetition to absorb it and use it subconsciously. So, take your time.
Slowly you will identify the same patterns in different people every day. This process will create in your mind the connections between movements and feelings.
When you feel that you can detect easily all the targeted movements, proceed to the next ones. This is the way to master all the body movements and finally you will be able to detect multiple moves and movement clusters as well.
The hint is to have patience. It is a requirement for People Observation.
This is the second major part of body language. Try to understand facial expressions. These can give you much more information about the inner world of other people. But also they are harder to detect.
I have to admit that I had great difficulty in recognizing patterns in the facial expressions. I started initially with the basics following the same tactic as with the body movements.
Finally, I was able to detect several facial expressions. You have to follow the same steps as you did with the movements phase.
If you reach a level at which you can understand the body language of other people then you will realize how much your intuition about others has increased. This skill will give you an advantage when interacting with others.
A useful tip which will help you understand better the body language is to observe your body movements and your feelings and how these two correlate.
This can be your initial practice with the body language; to observe your body when interacting with others.
Now we will use some psychology. Observing the language and the behavior of other people can provide you with valuable information about their personality type.
Notice if they use a lot of “me” or “I” when they speak. This shows a probable emphasis on their ego. But also look for “defensive” expressions as the emphasized ego may be the result of a “defensive” behavior.
People with low self-esteem try to hide their true selves. You can spot them through the language they use.
Usually, they exaggerate and emphasize how they would react in a hypothetical situation. In many cases, the reality is different of course.
Observing the language that people use, you can understand if they are good, bad, sensitive or even whether they have mental health issues or a bad childhood experience.
You have to make the connections between all these characteristics and the words they use.
WARNING: The following conclusions are only based on my experience and they are not in any case a reference model! These are my personal views as they have been shaped so far and they can change at any time as every person is different and can react completely unpredictably.
Usually, rude people have family problems or bad experiences as they were children. Also, in most cases they attack clearly and defend themselves vigorously.
They do not admit their mistakes because they usually lack self-confidence. In general, they like you if you tell them what they want to hear.
On the contrary, extremely polite people seem to hide something about themselves. I mean, they don’t look real.
They are so polite because they don’t like something in them. I haven’t concluded yet what this is, but I know for some reason that they are not real. Maybe terrible hate lies under their wide smile.
I knew some people that acted like that. They were extremely polite with people they hated. As I observed some of them and their language I don’t trust easily such personalities.
High self-esteem people have a regular or low profile. They do not exaggerate and they do not use fancy language. Also they prefer to show off with actions rather than words.
The ones that try to show a high self-esteem talking all the time about themselves, are in fact insecure. They are the opposite of what they try to present.
People who don’t speak a lot and cannot be engaged in a conversation easily are “closed” personalities. They are in a permanently defensive mode and, in some cases, they have low self-confidence.
Wherever I started a conversation with such people it was a disaster. You cannot say much because of their narrow way of thinking. They are strong-opinionated and if you disagree with them you are simply wrong, no matter how persuasive your arguments are.
You cannot change their opinion so don’t try at all. Also, such people don’t trust others easily and they are suspicious. But the strange thing is that if they finally trust you their behavior changes.
They do not defend their views so intently, and they may listen to what you have to tell them. Their opinion doesn’t change though but you can, at least, have a dialog.
These are some of my conclusions about people’s characters by just observing their language and behavior. I repeat that this is not a reference model.
Humans are unpredictable beings so all the above can only be MY estimations. Yours may be completely different and of course evenly respectable.
Way of Thinking
The way of thinking is a little bit general. Let me explain what I mean with that. It refers to the association of ideas.
It is the process of thinking of something new from a previous thought. It is like a chain. A thought may trigger another and so on.
So how can you use a pattern like that? You can predict, up to a degree, the reactions of people.
For example, if you see that a person thinks reasonably then you can expect that they will react normally. If this person makes unrelated associations then you cannot predict how their reaction. You may expect an extreme behavior as well as a normal one.
I used mainly this kind of people observation when I was interacting with women. A female mind thinks in a very different way than a male one, so I was interested in understanding how the associations of ideas comes up.
Of course, I admit that I don’t understand, and I don’t think that I will ever do, how the female mind works. Every time that I think that I’ve finally found a pattern then something happens that changes all my assumptions.
I concluded that there is no general pattern for different people, but there can be several patterns for the same person. Something that seems to work for someone will not work for someone else.
I observe these associations by making queries about several different issues. Just after the answer I try to notice what the next idea of the subject will be. Then I try to figure out elements of their character.
I usually ask them questions about how they would react to a situation. Such questions trigger many associations of ideas. If the associations are way too unpredictable then I know that this person can become unpredictable.
If you are able to identify thinking patterns of other people then you will know somehow how to behave with them in order to get what you want. Observing the way of thinking is a complicated process but it is rewarding when you get it.
Well, this seems to be entirely irrelevant to people observation; but it isn’t. When I meet a new person, I try to discuss politics and discover their views.
The following are some of my conclusions.
Most people I have met and have no political views (I mean people who do not have any kind of ideology and not people who do not support a political party) were selfish.
They don’t care about political issues because they don’t care for the commons. So if their life is as they want it to be then, they don’t get puzzled about social problems. They just live in their own world.
They face other people exactly in the same way as they face politics. Most of their friendships are based on interest.
On the other hand, the most of the people I have met with strong political convictions and who tried to convince me to them, were narrow-minded.
Political ideology seems unrelated to this behavior. I don’t judge what their political views are, only how stuck they are to them.
Usually, a political discussion with such people gets nowhere ending up to an awkward situation. They cannot get into somebody else’s shoes. That’s why I think they are not open-minded, and they cannot see behind the curtain.
The way they face political matters can show a lot about their lifestyle. Observing political beliefs of other people can lead you to make useful conclusions about their character and their intelligence also.
Correlations of the above
A significant parameter of the people observation technique is to search for any relationships between the actions we discussed so far.
For example, body movements that result from particular words. You can understand the impact of the words on the other person, provided that you acknowledge their body language.
I have found some connections between body language and language – behavior in some people. This knowledge can be used in order to produce emotions to the other person by using selective language and words.
I have observed that language is connected with the actions we saw so far. But I also found associations between body language and the way of thinking.
People who have an unpredictable association of ideas may follow some specific movement patterns. I am not sure that these two actions are connected but I believe that unpredictable people are more kinetic than the average.
They are highly descriptive, and they move a lot their hands when they talk.
There are moments that I am alone outdoors, like when I wait to queue. In such cases I try to observe people that interact with others. You can learn also from people you don’t know.
So the next time you are outside and you have to wait for something just observe the people around you. Don’t let the time go by unexploited.
People observation may help you understand people better and as a result, improve your sociability. I practiced this technique a lot in the past, and it became a skill.
Now it is permanently active, and there are moments that I enjoy guessing other people’s feelings and thoughts. Start practicing people observation technique today and see for yourself.
you have given super matter.i really impressed
but i want a detail study on how to observe people, their actions.expressions ,etc evrything how or from where can i get ?
I really want to learn the procedure how to observe people whether they are lying or not ..
Impressive. I’ve naturally done this alot as a kid and it usually resulted in me coming off weird for staring.
However STAY AWAY FROM DRUGS! (marijuana) is another rule; for some odd reason, i can’t make strong observations anymore. Do i just need practice again? or is it a lost game now?
Hey Brandan, for me actually applies conversely. I am a pot smoker for around 4 years on a regular basis and i can see my ‘ability’ still active. Also i do not remember my-self in the past. before being a pot smoker to observe at all. So i think marijuana helps you maybe even develop it.
I do too, like observing people. By it, I learn many traits and behavior about us (humans). The (1) truth that I can say is; there is no way in every moment you’d see only the good side of man, there’s bound to be a dark side prevail in any given time if you seek to see it too. Enjoy life as it is…
interesting its also who you are comfortable with also the connection you can have with a a person I feel not everybody is gonna be buddy buddy
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What a crock. No wonder people “close up” with “pervert” type behaviour like this going on! For every “observation” made here of someone’s behaviour and “explanation” (as with all ‘psychological’ explanations) there could be anywhere from 1 to possibly 100 other explanations for how people being perved on are acting. For instance “People who don’t speak a lot and cannot be engaged in a conversation easily are “closed” personalities. They are in a permanently defensive mode and in some cases they have low self-confidence.” Did you stop to consider they may be just private people who don’t WANT you meddling, interfering, with, or examining their life as if they were a laboratory insect? I am SO tired of having people meet me and within 24 hours trying to push their “psychological” views, opinions and “assessments” of me into my mind! Let’s go back to having a bit of respect for individuals and their privacy, and simply “live and let live”.
Why are you so angry? What we describe here is just a simple analysis of the behavior of the people we interact in our everyday lives, for our record only. This is something personal and whoever is doing it it does it for their self. The other person does not realize it. Observing people is natural, you are doing it all the time, everybody does, even if you do not doing it on purpose.
Perhaps you are reffering to another thing that offends you. If you catch people trying to plant their views and opinions into your mind then this has nothing to do with “observation”.
Lol she’s probably upset cause she feels victimized by the unflattering observations applied to herself. It’s ironic cause you can use the article itself to relatively deduce why she’s upset by the article.
Brilliant escalation of the conversation
I’ve done this before. Disguising myself as a ‘close minded’ person, although it consumed me at some point and I actually became that, and hey, this blogger is 80% accurate. Low self-confidence is definitely there. People who don’t want others to interfere with their private lives are not necessarily close minded. In fact, they do very well in socializing and interacting with others, but are VERY PICKY and careful on the topics they talk about, and that’s a ‘defensive mode’
Also, the more you keep quiet, the more attention you’re drawing towards yourself. Luke-warm is the best way to stay in this society. Don’t blow too hot or too cold…because it’s the extremes that attract people.
hey Socrates I agree with Julia, also I think it a bit unfair to ask her why she is so angry. She may very well be angry but also she may have cause to be. What if I was to ask you why are you so passive aggressive ? how would you react ?….. I think its great that you are interested in human behavior, it makes me think that you can be a good force for the advancement of this planet. Unfortunately I did find most of what you have observed and have written to be rather immature and not very accurate. I like your enthusiasm but i feel your knowledge of human behavior very shallow and feel your thought process to be based on your own insecurities rather than reality. Keep trying I can see potential but you are still a long way off and perhaps you should refrain from giving advice until you reach your full potential. Good luck however.
Hi Sue, thanks for your honest comments, I really appreciate your input. I believe that you misunderstood me but in any case, I would like to describe exactly what I meant. People observation as I mean it in this article refers to a natural ability that we humans have to classify people, such as good, bad, kind etc. What, I actually suggesting here is to give a little bit more conscious attention to this ability. I don’t understand the “passive aggressive” characterization, how can one be passive and aggressive at the same time? Don’t these two contradict?
About my observations, they may be exactly as you describe as I haven’t cross-checked them with a specialist. But these are just my views and conclusions as I clearly state in the article. You disagree with them and its fine, though it would be great to share your opposite views on the matter in order to have a constructive dialog. It seems that you have observed people in a better way than me. Finally, I have to add that everything is a matter of perspective and perception. Every human’s reality is shaped differently, aka every human being is unique. So, how can you judge that my thought process is shallow and based on my insecurities rather than reality? Whose reality?
Well, at least I know now I am not the only weirdo that does this… My biggest issue in a social setting is not to act how I think the other person/people MAY think of me… The looking glass self sort of thing… also yes, I see how extreme politeness could also harbor something darker. These people could be sociopaths attracting pawns. However, I think people sometimes assume those that are extremely kind are secretly malicious because of the way our society works, it is extremely hard to trust anyone. If you’ll notice those who were the most peace loving were assassinated or at least attempts were made. I don’t know the answer and at this point I am almost convinced none of this is even real anyway…
yea that’s the stuff
I like to observe males because I am a female and it seems easier to me. I also like to come up with stories about people relating to what they do and say. It is a fun thing to do actually, and the best part is that they don’t know that you’re doing it to them
I have to notice that i am highly impressed by the effort you have made but also by how accurate your article is. I can say i have kind of mastered the ‘people observation’ technique as you brightly named it but without aiming at doing it. I thought it was a natural ability of my-self and maybe it is, maybe all people can do it. I enjoy doing it all the time watching debates of politicians. It is extremely easy for me understand who is lying, who is deeply educated in terms of being a human, who truly represents democracy and who does not. Most of these pigs under their suits and ties – i can tell this outfit is really tricky – seem to represent democracy but if you carefully observe all of their Body Movements, Face expressions, Language – Behavior, Way of thinking, Political views and MOST important o Correlations of the above, as you writer perfectly mentioned, you reach to the conclusion that these people nothing more than big fat fascists who show up as democrats. New world order is fascism in all kind of ways, globalization is the result of this fake democracy. The main problem is the lack of actual education: ”Lets be socialists, now out of interest lets be republicans, after 4 years maybe try to be aliens, as long as we have something to earn out it”. They do not stand for something because simply this position was given to them not because they wanted it but because it was offered to them. Why to refuse to make some big and easy money, all you have to do is study about the current economic and political situation, remember your lines and buy some suits. If these people truly stand for democracy they would probably suicide or find it extremely hard to sleep by night. By the observation technique is really easy to understand which politician has learned his words by heart and which one talks by his heart. Governors should only be intellectual people, with a high perception and spiritual involvement. These people exist folks! They are just not currently ruling the world.
Can you send me some techniques
I find your methods and observations interesting, but I have to admit reading this made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Under the Ways of Thinking section you made the comment “If you are able to identify thinking patterns of other people then you will know somehow how to behave with them in order to get what you want.” This just seems like you’ve gone to all this effort in order to learn how to manipulate people. This seems like an abuse of your observation skills, and seems like you would be the one being fake with people if you’re consciously adjusting how you act with them in order to “get what you want” from them. I could be wrong, just my thoughts on the subject, but you might want to consider your real motives for doing this.
Maybe it sounds like that but allow me to explain what I mean. This article points out the natural process of the human brain to classify human behavioral patterns. What we do actually is to realize this process and start doing it consciously.
By saying the alarming phrase “to get what you want“ I mean no manipulation of the other person or anything bad, but just better communication. When you communicate better with the others, you make yourself clear and you state your opinion and position in a strong way without any doubts. So in other words “you get what you want“.
Life is full of conversations, arguments and negotiations. Every time you have an intention you just want to pass this to the other people. Knowing the thinking patterns of the person then you have the advantage in the conversation. This is not to present a fake you, you are not pretending to be someone else. This is only to understand the people better and saying something the way they want to hear it.
This is what I meant in the first place and I apologize if I gave false impression by using this phrase.
Off course there are techniques of people manipulation but this is not the way to do it.
I really like it, and I am also one of the ‘people watching’ guys. what you have written is something which I have been doing it for a long time. it is a learning process for me, I learn good things and I unlearn unacceptable behavious in public. it motivates me , it makes me smile, it also helps me reflect upon various things.
please read my blog which I wrote long before… I have not updated it recently 🙁 …
Thanks for the writing, it really helps a lot 🙂
Can I ask you to suggest some good books in this matter?
I wanted to say that.what point you mention in thair article its all about right.according to my view.bcause I observed that think.
I just want to say.
It’s the best article I have ever read.
Its a great article, I do not however agree so much on your conclusion of people who act politely or on the conclusion for people who do not have a political ideology.
Could it be that we are used to dealing with people who have rather negative attitudes, that when we meet people who are extremely polite, we categorize them as unreal/fake? You mentioned you thought they didn’t like something of themselves or they could be hiding something…. So what if they are beyond that? What if these extremely polite people love themselves so much that they are trying to help others do the same?
What if they have lived a hard beat up life and they are focused on helping others not do the same? What if, omg, what if these people are really truly and honestly just nice? Wow, wouldn’t that be a shocker! Lol, I do however agree on the you not liking them too much, it happens to most of us nice people, we get treated badly, discriminated and looked at funny by people who decided not to like our niceness. What, just because you think you dont deserve someone to be nice to you the rest of us should know and automatically be pricks? The observation goes as far as the observer right? If you are not such person, or you have had little to do with naturally nice people then your opinion would show that, in which case I am sorry.
You also spoke about people without political ideology and categorized them as selfish, as they do not care about the masses, as long as they are ok, they could care less about the rest, I couldn’t agree more, I know people who do not vote (gasp! I know right?, lol) because they know things will continue to be the same, they focus on trying to help people around them and making the world better themselves, they participate in food drives, volunteer in hospitals/churches, donate to 3rd world countries… They share what ever they have or don’t have, they are not sitting around waiting on the president to fix something so they can complain about how it wasn’t done right or how the money was spent wrong, no. Taking responsibility for what we have created on this earth as a race is what will help change the world, not voting for a monkey to blame when we mess things up. I think you have a great talent for writing, and would love to read your book, I may not agree with all your ideas but the majority of them are great. Thank you for taking the time to write them all down for us.
Thanks for commenting, I would like to reply to your points. First of all, let me clear out that I have no intention to offend anyone by my writings. You mentioned specifically two categories of people. When I am talking about extremely polite people I don’t mean the really nice guys that you love to be with and to hang around. The term “extremely” means literally something that is unusual and in our case, awkward. I mean way off normal…
Still, you may disagree because you may have different experiences, which is totally acceptable. When I write something that reflects my personal views it doesn’t necessarily mean that you must agree with me. You disagree every day with dozens of people. Right? Besides, I declare it explicitly at the beginning of the “conclusions” section.
As for the second type of people, did you actually read it or stayed on the title? I believe that I am clear that people who do not vote are not falling into this category when I say “I mean people who do not have any kind of ideology and not people who do not support a political party”.
Furthermore, in just the next paragraph I say that they do not care for the commons. So I would like to ask, how the people that do not care for the commons, “focus on trying to help people around them and making the world better themselves, they participate in food drives, volunteer in hospitals/churches, donate to 3rd world countries… They share whatever they have or don’t have, they are not sitting around waiting on the president to fix something so they can complain about how it wasn’t done right or how the money was spent wrong”?
You describe people who not only care about the commons but who are true activists, which are remarkable. I don’t understand how you concluded that these people are a subject for discussion here, just because they don’t vote? Please tell me where I say that people who do not vote have no ideology. Political views have to do with the issues of the polis; it is not to be confused with political parties.
I find this article really impressive. I agree with you in almost every point. It was rare to have such flexible observation and regarding the extremely polite, i can never argue with that. Most of them have personality disorders. I know someone who has good observation skills and never fails to impress me how she can tell someones intentions and predict their actions. And also, there are people who are gifted with amazing observation skills though hard to believe but It comes out naturally for them. Anyway, thanks for writing this article, i will probably try this though it’s effect will be just temporary.
It does my head in as I alway know what people are thinking an I always feel what they are feeling. It makes me feel uncomfortable. What do I do?
Just follow your intuition, stay positive!
this is a beautiful article. i have always wanted to read such things and get knowledge about body language and the art of observing others.
I have trouble understanding other people’s feelings and thoughts, yet I still notice that people show some kind of signs. I started watching a series on Netflix, Elementary. It’s about Sherlock Holmes, a constant with the NYPD. I genuinely admired his deduction skills on how people thought, felt and even if they were lying. So after I watched the whole series, I started to try it out myself. I can now see if people don’t want to talk (when I’m walking my dog) and when they do. Deep inside I don’t want to talk either, but I do talk to others so I can practice my deduction skills.
I hope this article will help me get better at observing others.
*Consultant with the NYPD