The Art of People Watching
Have you ever sat at a cafe and simply observed? No agenda. No to-do lists. But simply sat and watched.
Every day, we witness the ebb and flow of our communities. We experience the beautiful movement of people, places, ideas and conversation. We feel its unifying power. People watching gives a front row seat to our community’s essence.
Why People Watch People
People are inherently fascinating. From the first-date couple nervously drinking coffee and making small to the long-time friends laughing over the “good ole days”, people watching helps you unearth life’s stories and even create some of your own. How many best-selling novels or blockbuster films do you think have been inspired by the simple art of people watching? Learning to sit, observe and feel the rhythm of the world around you opens you up to new opportunities, possibilities and ideas. It gives you a fresh perspective on your community and the people in it.
People watching also helps you to study body language. According to UCLA researchers, the body is the most important way we perceive others. It’s our most powerful form of communication. By simply observing other people, we can learn spades about communication and take some of those lessons into our relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and partners.
People watch people to learn about people. Let’s break that down. According to Psychology Today, there are five things you can learn about other people by watching them: identity, self-esteem, emotional state, kindness and extraversion. The more you people watch, the more attune you become to these identifiers. And the more attune you become, the easier you can relate to them and their nuances.
Best Places to People Watch
There are places that are better than others to practice the art of people watching. For instance, you will have plenty to observe at your local cafe, park or even an airport. Even the line at the grocery store provides plenty of opportunity to start people watching. You might also think about heading to the mall, or even public transit. Think about the areas of significant activity in your city. Where do the people in your community hang out?
Tips to People Watch without Being Creepy
People watching can err on the side of creepy, so here are a few tips and best practices to make the most of your time and not be the creep who hangs out at the corner cafe and stares at everyone.
• Watch with a friend. Or a date. Who says that people watching can’t be a fun date? Grab a coffee, discuss what you see, or even make up stories about the people you are watching.
• Be respectful of people’s privacy and space. Bring a book or journal to occupy yourself so you remain unobtrusive.
• Keep it general. Try not to focus on a specific person or event for too long and simply observe the general situation and how people move through it.
• Write things down. If something you observe develops an insight, write it down. It may lead to something great.
• Be open. You may strike up a conversation with someone you have never met or explore an area of the city you have never seen. People watching allow you to seize some interesting opportunities. Be open to them.
People watching is an art form. It’s a great way to learn about your community, culture and environment. And who knows who you’ll meet by just being present? Maybe you’ll have your next meetcute!
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