How much do you notice about your environment and the people around you? What about facial expressions, reactions, tone of voice, and patterns of movement? The feelings you get about people, environments, and situations, are they based on your observations? Experience? Intuition? Perhaps a combination of factors? What about your first impressions, are they usually accurate? Are you better at reading body language of people you know versus strangers? Can you read the mood of a room? Atmosphere? When I was at a happy hour for a friend’s promotion, her roommate’s boyfriend and I were talking about energy. He scoffed at it. I mentioned the example, many of us can relate to, and it’s entering a room and sensing immediately that there’s tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. Even without knowing the people in the room, or the topic being discussed, you can sense it. What is it that we sense? He understood what I was trying to convey after using that example. Why do some of us have such a huge presence and some of us don’t? Does it depend on the day and our energy level and mood? Is it something consistent? Is it because of physical features? Why do we notice someone when they enter a room, versus the many who entered without us realizing? What about realizing someone is behind us, without hearing or seeing anything? Or when we can tell someone is staring at us from across the room? What is charisma, and are people born with it, or is it developed over time? Who notices the nuances between people and groups? Those with emotional intelligence? If so, how did they acquire it? Why are some people so stiff in their emotions, body, and speech? How are other people so incredibly welcoming that they exude kindness and warmth?
Being a psychology major, I found the episodes in season three of Kuroko’s Basketball, when Kuroko first uses misdirection fascinating. Whether or not the idea is realistic in a basketball game, I leave to the athletes and experts to decide. But as a concept itself, I found it intriguing. Is being aware of these idiosyncrasies, and using them to your advantage, manipulative? Is it something people do subconsciously? Can it be misused by swindlers and advertising companies? How did magicians discover these concepts? Perhaps it’s application to Teiko’s basketball team isn’t too far-fetched?
What about people who wear their hearts on their sleeves? Someone who is hot-headed, may need to take a pause before responding to a situation. But in a general sense, people who are open with their feelings in a sincere and authentic way, are usually honest. And hopefully their feelings aren’t riddled with hate, envy, or malice. For people with intuition, and those with a keen sense of human behavior, it will be evident when people use crocodile tears or attempt emotional manipulation. How about nerves? Things that rattle us before important events, like a meeting presentation, a big game, or even a wedding? What IS that? Just an overabundance of energy? Why does it propel some people to greatness, those with an ability to harness it for enthusiasm and drive? And others to freeze? Others to run in avoidance?
When observing others, there are many factors to consider like varying cultures, environment, or health. Is it cold outside and that’s why someone’s movements are rigid? Is someone’s mental health affecting the way they carry themselves? People in healthy relationships with others will carry themselves differently than those in unhealthy relationships. People being persecuted, harmed, or bullied may avoid eye contact. Bullies may have a menacing air or an arrogant attitude. Someone who may be a bully in one situation, could be a victim in another (not excusing the situation, but noting there may be a change in behavior). Confident people may find eye contact with others normal. Those with low self-esteem may not, and it may even be rude to look someone in the eye in some cultures. Families will interact differently with each other than a group of strangers meeting for their first book club. Context plays a major part in what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. Or, what is common behavior and what isn’t. We bring our own lens as an observer when analyzing human behavior. Our own potential biases is something to consider as well.
I used to study and work on school assignments at a cafe every weekend. It was rich in opportunities to observe human interactions. It was also a popular spot for online dates, not sure why. Especially on Saturday mornings when I was doing homework. Typically those were painful and awkward, so I tried to ignore those. Interestingly, I often had strangers tell me their life stories, even if I tried to avoid eye contact, because my paper had a deadline. All types of people, of various ages, and backgrounds would share their stories.
I want to know what I was projecting to attract that routinely. Or not projecting that I should’ve been. Overall, I enjoyed the conversations and interactions I had. Perhaps, people felt comfortable sharing with a stranger who wouldn’t judge them, versus someone they’d see often in their daily lives. On a related note, why do lost children always come up to me in stores? Thankfully, all were reunited with their guardians without issue. Parents, please teach your kids, as early as possible what your full names are. I remember one little boy replying that his mother’s name was Mom. Realizing I had to take a different approach, I asked him what her friends called her. Knowing her name now, we were able to find her easily. Whatever part of me, that makes me approachable and lets people feel safe, I am grateful for it. I’m just curious what it is…
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