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.
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.