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😬😄🙃 People watching is the art of observing the people around you and noticing characteristics about them. It can be a fun way to pass the time, a chance to get ideas and inspiration, or simply a way to connect with people around you. To begin people watching, find a well-populated area, sit somewhere out of the way, and avoid calling attention to yourself to observe people unobtrusively.
Method 1Method 1 of 2:Finding a Place to People Watch
- 1Find an area with the demographic that you want to watch. If your goal is to observe the elderly, head to a retirement home. If you want to find families, post up at your local mall. If you do have a goal for your people watching, don’t head somewhere that won’t have anyone you are interested in.XResearch source
- If you are not planning to people watch, you might not get to choose when or where you start. Standing in line at the doctor’s office or sitting in a waiting room are great chances to observe people.
😬😄🙃 Tip: Parks will usually be populated with families, while cafes or restaurants might have couples or single people. College campuses are populated with young adults and public transportation attracts people across all demographics.
- 2Go to an area that is well-populated. People watching isn’t any fun if there aren’t people! Avoid places that don’t have many people and instead head to places like malls, zoos, parks, and stores that you know will be crowded with people. Places are more likely to be full of patrons on the weekends or during the summer when children are not in school.XResearch source
- Dog parks, art galleries, public transportation, and tourist spots are all great places to people watch.
- 3Sit in a spot where you’re out of the way. If you people watch in the middle of a walkway, people are bound to run into you and interact with you. To people watch undisturbed, tuck yourself into an out of the way corner where you can sit down. A park bench, a corner booth at a cafe, or a bench in the mall are all great spots to sit.XResearch source
- Try to sit somewhere high up whenever possible. Balconies and rooftops are the ideal spots in a building.
Method 2Method 2 of 2:Observing People Unobtrusively
- 1Set goals for your people watching if you want to learn something. You may set out to people watch just to pass the time. Or, you may be looking to observe certain behaviors and mannerisms for a specific purpose. If you are looking to get information from people watching, set those goals beforehand so you know what to do as you watch.XResearch source
- People watching is a great way to get fashion ideas and character designs for books, movies, and plays.
- 2Bring a friend with you to have more fun. People watching with another person is always more enjoyable. Grab a friend to sit and chat with you as you observe people. Don’t laugh at or make fun of people as you watch them with your friend. This can make people feel bad or uncomfortable.XResearch source
- Avoid bringing a large group to people watch. This will only call attention to you, and your group of friends might get bored.
- 3Wear an outfit that won’t make you stand out. You want to blend in with your surroundings. Avoid flashy shirts and lots of bling. Instead, opt for neutral colors and weather-appropriate clothes to become a person in the crowd rather than standing out as an observer.XResearch source
- Avoid wearing large hats or glasses.
😬😄🙃 Tip: If you are outside, put on a pair of sunglasses to disguise your eyes. Do not wear sunglasses inside, as it will only draw attention to you.
- 4Bring a notebook to write down interesting moments or people. If you’re people watching with a purpose, like character inspiration or costume design, you might be struck with a great idea while you are out. Take a notebook and a pencil with you when you people watch to write down any great observations or insights that you notice as you observe people.XTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
- Be subtle as you write things down. Don’t stare right at someone and take notes on them. Instead, steal quick glances as you observe them from afar.
- 5Act like you are doing something on a phone or laptop. Someone simply sitting and staring can be a little disconcerting to people walking by. If you don’t have a notebook, bring your phone or your laptop to look distracted as you sit and people watch. Act like you are typing a report or texting a friend instead of simply sitting and watching.XResearch source
- You can also bring a book or magazine to act like you are reading.
- Plug headphones into your phone or laptop to look even more inconspicuous.
- 6Think about each person that passes and who they might be. The most interesting part of people watching is making guesses about other people’s lives. To get the most out of your people watching experience, observe how people walk, talk, and interact with others to take guesses as to who they are and why they are here.XResearch source
- People’s clothes also say a lot about them. Layers indicate they are prepared for the weather, while showing skin can mean confidence.
- 7Avoid passing judgement on anyone. Everyone has bad days sometimes. As you people watch, you may see some people who express behaviors you don’t quite agree with. Try to be an unbiased observer and simply take in what you see without making judgement calls on it.XResearch source
- People may act differently when they don’t know they are being observed.
- 8Observe people’s body language to pick up on their emotions.Body language can say a lot about a person’s mood. Crossed arms can mean anger, hunched posture can mean sadness, and relaxed shoulders can indicate happiness. Pay attention to how people stand or sit and make guesses as to how they are feeling.XTrustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source
- Facial expressions are also a good indicator of mood. Scowling or scrunched faces indicate anger while raised eyebrows often indicate contentedness or relaxation.
- 9Listen to people’s voices as they talk to learn more about them. Note if they have an accent, a high or low speaking voice, if they seem excited or frustrated, or if they are overly quiet. Make guesses as to how they are feeling based on how they sound and if they are enjoying their conversations.XTrustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source
- It can also be fun to overhear snippets of people’s conversations without context.
- QuestionWhat is the difference between people watching and staring?Community AnswerWhen you watch people, you just watch them. You watch the way they walk, the way they talk, etc. You should be nice while doing it, so they don't notice, and you don't disturb them. But when you stare at people, you watch them directly. It can be annoying.
- QuestionIsn't people watching the same thing as stalking?Community AnswerNot at all! Stalking is a determination to follow a chosen target relentlessly, following them and being wherever they go. People watching is about being observant and carefully viewing a wide range of people wherever you happen to be. You won't know the people you're observing generally, you probably won't ever see most of them again, and even if you do know them, you aren't setting up a pattern of constantly following and harassing them. Totally not the same thing.
- QuestionWhy do you and everyone spy on me? What is the purpose of watching me?Community AnswerPeople-watching is not spying. It's more discreet, it's not just focused on one specific person (you're observing the people around you in general), and it doesn't involve following anyone around or anything like that. It's usually done in public places where there are a lot of people sitting around or passing by. It's an innocent thing, and the description of the article explains why people enjoy doing it.
- QuestionWill this offend people?Community AnswerThere is always a chance of that. Just try not to openly stare. Look at someone and then look away. If someone gets angry at you, just apologize.
- QuestionHow can you tell if someone is watching you?Community AnswerCheck if the person is moving their head around or if they seem to be looking at one thing. If they are watching you when you are moving, check if they turn around to face you when you move.
- QuestionHow can I people watch without leaving my backyard?Community AnswerBuy a set of binoculars, that might increase your range. Don't use them to look into people's homes or yards, though, as this is an invasion of privacy, and usually illegal.
- QuestionIf I like a person I am watching, can I approach them?Community AnswerYes. Just be polite about it.
- QuestionWhat if I catch someone looking at me and they give me a disgusted look?Community AnswerFirst, examine your own behavior. Ask yourself if your actions or appearance are appropriate to where you are and what you are expected to be doing. Second, ensure that you are fully abiding by any national, local or organizational laws or rules that apply to where you are. Third, be conscious of any traditions or manners that may cause your behavior to be frowned upon or viewed negatively. Once you have satisfied these conditions, in most Western countries, you are free to express yourself in any way that you choose, whether it be clothes, accessories, hair style, piercings, tattoos etc. Avoid confrontation. Move away if possible. It's also possible you're misinterpreting the look.
- QuestionHow do I begin people watching if there are no public areas near me and I have no transportation?Community AnswerSearch "live webcam feeds" on YouTube. There are a lot of webcam feed that show streets, parks and even zoos.
- QuestionWhy would anyone want to do this?Top AnswererPeople watching is the art of observing people around you. Social psychology is a type of people watching. You can watch the behavior of people in their social settings. People watching lets you gain knowledge about people and communication.
About This Article
To people watch, practice natural observation by sitting quietly somewhere unobtrusive, like a bench in a busy plaza or under a tree in the park. Make sure to wear sunglasses or bring a book to read so you remain unnoticed. To make things more interesting, pick 1 person out and, according to their outward appearance, make up the details of their life. For how to use people-watching to build characters for your writing, read on!