The watcher

Have you ever been in a public place and observed what is going on around you? I mean, really observed people, how they interact and react to each other?

I do it all the time. At the risk of being seen as a weirdo or voyeur, I can learn a lot about how people tick just by keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut. When you are busy engaging yourself in a conversation, you miss out on a lot of other stuff that is going on – signs, body language, eye movements, stance, even tone of voice. When you are busy talking – and I am guilty of this – you are often concentrating on the next thing you want to say. When you appear to be listening, more often than not you are still thinking about what you are going to say next to counteract or react to whatever your partner in banter has had to say to you. So sometimes I watch, and I learn.

Body language is a pretty important thing. You can find yourself reacting to someone’s body language even before they open their mouths, so one of my body language venue hang outs is the local supermarket. Can you just imagine all of those bodies together, the ultimate goal of foraging, thwarted at the last minute by the line up at the checkout. What a spectacular place to be – not all the time mind you, my life is not that sad. But if one must forage, it is far better to be focused on the shenanigans going on around you. Makes for a much easier shopping trip, and supplies fodder to think about.

Unfortunately supermarkets are not really set up for a social get together, so body language combined with social banter are probably out. Parks and public hangouts can produce all kinds of interesting interactions. You can take your pick really, from a safe distance with some good sunglasses, to observe all kinds of daytime public displays of well, anything within reason. Anything from personal to interpersonal. Mind you, you may get more than you bargained for if you are suspected of hanging out by yourself for a reason – either by the local constabulatory or the real local weirdo, so be prepared with a notebook sporting some professional looking notes, or a large stick.

Nightclubs are amazingly notorious for some real body language action, fuelled of course by intoxication. Everybody stands around looking at everybody else for a while, wondering if they are also being looked at. When the music hots up and the local spirit of choice kicks in, just keep your wits about you and your eyes wide open – that is all I have to say.

Be an observer occasionally, be a listener and not the monopoliser of the conversation every now and again. You will become more enlightened, more sensitive to others, more aware and possibly more interesting in the long term as a minefield of information.

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