People Watching For Self-Improvement

As I walk to and from work, university, and to get groceries, I like to “People Watch”. This isn’t nearly as creepy as it sounds, but basically as you are walking, commuting, or whatever, pay attention to the actions, postures, and general vibe of the people around you. This is something most of us don’t do, whether we are too busy texting, changing songs on our Ipod, or trying to avoid eye contact with random strangers. You’ll be amazed by how poorly 90% of people carry themselves, and with a little awareness you can avoid these same problems. I find that a lot of these have begun to help me with my own self-confidence, and as I continue to work on being aware of these things and correcting my own mistakes, I not only look better, but begin to feel better.

1) Observe the line of sight of others while they walk.

The majority of the time, especially on University campus, I notice people tend to look down as they walk. We do this subconsciously after years of avoiding eye contact with people, which I suspect stems back to our high school days. Once you realize you are constantly looking down, you will be super shocked and immediately begin to reverse this habit. First, you are now free to observe the world around you, other people, how nice the campus looks on a fall day, or a chance to make eye contact with that good looking guy or gal walking passed you. All of which are things you miss when you stare at the concrete sidewalk in front of you. Next, you’ll find that it naturally boosts your self-confidence. Walking with your head up and your shoulders back takes some time to perfect, but you’d be surprised at just how much of a difference this makes in the way you walk, and the way you feel when doing it. Add a smile in there, whether you are happy or not, and you’ll naturally start to feel like a million bucks. You’ll also begin to notice a lot more people looking at you wondering why you are in such a good mood, and probably brighten their own day in the process. A positive feedback loop if you will.

2) Look at what other’s are projecting.

Everyone projects something, and I’m not talking about stupidity or body odor.  This is a good exercise as the vast majority of the people you encounter subconsciously project a  negative self image of themselves. Next time you are on the train, bus, or at the bar, take a look at the way people hold themselves. Are they slouched over? Frowning, or do they generally look displeased? Perhaps, fidgeting or holding themselves awkwardly? You’d be surprised that just about everyone does these things. The few who don’t, who project confidence, a good posture, and a smile, will be noticeably more interesting. Why are they in such a good mood? What does he/she do? Etc. If you actively notice others doing this, you are far less likely to project a negative image yourself. If anything, say to yourself, I don’t know what their problem is, but am I ever glad that my life is not nearly as dull as theirs must be and smile about that. While being aware of your self-projection may not make a huge difference when you are walking to and from the bus everyday, practicing then makes it a habit for when it is more useful. You’ll naturally begin to broadcast a positive image  in social settings when you are trying to meet people such as at a conference or in the bar, making you much more approachable. This will allow you to focus less on you’re own body language, and more on having a good time, and interacting with others.

3) Listen to how strangers interact when they first meet.

This is an often hilarious and insightful learning experience. Far to often it sounds like people are conducting job interviews on each others and you fully expect a resume to be produced. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, but no one loves playing 20 questions with mundane canned responses to generic, canned questions.  If you notice this habit, try not to fall into the awkward trap. The trick is to not stop asking questions when you meet strangers, rather, drill deeper into interesting topics you both have in common, or that they’ve brought up that you’d like to learn more about. The best thing you can do is show interest in a persons hobbies, they’ll feel important and you’ll have probably learned a couple of cool facts about the person by the time you’re encounter is done. As you meet someone, the objective shouldn’t be to learn everything about someone in one shotgun blast of suck, but rather to pick a topic, engage at a deeper level, and slowly uncover more about the person you are interacting with as you move through related topics. Generally you will uncover a lot more about someone this way, you will build rapport at a deeper level, and often walk away having learned something completely unexpected about a topic you knew nothing about.

When you do see a conversation that is going well, pay attention! Notice how more often then not they are in a deep discussion about something in common. Generally the questions become more and more specific, or are a natural progression based on a single set of related topics. Notice the congruity. Your discussions don’t have to involve rocket science, the  meaning of life, and  they can and should be super playful as well(tone this back a bit if you are in a business situation). If you can learn to do this, you’ll find yourself not only a lot more entertained, but arguably having met a new friend, or a future business contact, that you now know a lot more about.

So there you have it, 3 simple tasks that you can do everyday. They don’t require active participation, but they do require you to observe social interaction at a deeper level. They are pretty straight forward, and hopefully you can use them to break the standard mold of our introverted, and often socially awkward generation. Like always, if you have feedback feel free to leave it below, I’d love to hear some different opinions, or similar things you like to do!