People Watching a Vital Skill

Within the first few weeks of life, human beings become people watchers. They learn to recognize faces, to read expressions, to understand love and trust. The toddler who misbehaves after day-care has undoubtedly been little people watching, and copying naughty behavior. Teens who want to fit it, be popular, have lots of friends, will watch those peers who are all these things and learn from their behaviors. So it would seem that people watching is a skill we humans have and use continually.

As adults, the skill is not just a very pleasurable pastime for those of us interested in our fellow humans, but a way to progress happily in all areas of life. A man knows that all is not well with his partner the minute he walks into the house and takes one look at that partner’s face and body language. The woman who gets to work and finds a red-faced boss stomping around can see and understand immediately that there may be trouble ahead.

Those workers in caring professions are extraordinarily gifted people watchers. That skill, for them, is almost as important as all their technical and vocational knowledge and experience. For example, a nurse working with elderly patients will not just be able to deliver personal care and the right medication, but to observe individuals very closely. He or she will be picking up signals from body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, the words said and un-said of those in their care. People watching is vital, not just a pastime.

This extends to every role the human being takes, as it enables them to learn, communicate, understand, empathize and relate to others in meaningful ways. Being able to watch, interpret and act upon what is observed and learned from people watching then makes for better relationships and ultimately, a better community or society.

Of course, the fun part of people watching is great. Like sitting on the bus to work and watching the antics of fellow passengers. Not only does it pass the time, but it allows the imagination to roam free as we construct fanciful lives for our subjects. Who knows just what is going on in that twitchy person’s life, or the man who never can find his change, every single morning? A great novel may grow from people watching, for some of us, but better still, we all can achieve a deeper understanding and compassion. Which is why people watching is more than just a pastime.