You are waiting in a busy area for an hour or so. People are coming and going; conversations happening all around you. As you wait, you start to notice and observe those in your surroundings. You listen in on their conversations or put together your own words in your head as you watch them interact. Those two people in the corner hugged – are they seeing each other for the first time in a long time? Laughter comes from the table across the way — was a funny story or joke just told?
People watching is something we all do from time to time. According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, people watching can be defined as “the action or practice of spending time idly observing people in a public place.” Humans are inherently curious and somewhat nosey creatures. We are interested in what is going on with those around us. We want to learn from others, observe the various personalities, see how other people live, and try to find similarities between ourselves and strangers. When it comes to people watching, a person will soon realize that there are more common traits between people and that the differences between us are actually bringing us closer together rather than dividing us. However, these aren’t the only two observations we can make from people watching.
Through this habit, you notice the obvious first, such as what people are wearing, their general dispositions, and what is currently occupying their time. Are they rushing to an appointment? Talking rudely to someone on their cell phone? Or are they wearing the latest styles? By looking at the first impressions, we can tell a great deal about a person. In addition, we can possibly steal a trick or two to help better our own lives. For example, you notice someone reacting calmly in a stressful situation and you use some of their tricks for yourself on how to respond when things aren’t going your way. Lastly, you will see how people carry themselves with their posture. From their posture, you can tell how they feel about themselves. Whether they are confident, have high self-esteem, or maybe are tired.
Next, you will discover more about relationship roles from people watching, especially who is the listener and who is the talker. As you are sitting on a bench in a park, you notice a couple walking by and observe one doing all the talking and the other doing the listening. From this you can learn more about the value of listening to those around you. The benefits of listening include understanding other perspectives, having impactful responses and conversations, and working toward eliminating any misunderstandings.
In regard to relationship roles, through people watching a person can understand more about various cultures and types of backgrounds in the world. It can be interesting to see the different roles within families and generations in other cultures.
Lastly, people watching will remind us of the good still left in the world. By observing others, we notice the kind actions toward strangers, the moments of happiness between loved ones, and how people take genuine interest in activities they enjoy. We become more empathetic and gain a better understanding of people, in general. We realize that every human goes through good times and challenging times. We also realize that our interactions with each other can make a huge impact on our daily lives, whether we know it or not.
People watching provides us with a mindfulness activity that forces us to be still and take in our surroundings. We become present in the moment. People watching is considered a negative hobby by some, but it’s not. People watching allows us the opportunity to learn from others and find the beauty in the world. So, the next time you find yourself with extra time, put down your phone, and observe those around you.