Ever been to one of those family gatherings, asked the same questions by different members of the family, bored out of your wits? Maybe you’re out with friends, feeling like a fish out of water. Or perhaps you’re sitting on the bus or train, looking around to while away the time, until something draws your attention.

We’ve all been there.

Well… here’s a fun and interesting little exercise you can try out, next time, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

Take a good, proper look around you. See. Listen. Observe.

Pay attention to a person’s body language, for example. Eye contact is a common thing to look out for. Is that woman making eye contact with that guy whilst they’re engaged in conversation? This is usually a sign of interest. Next, she flips her hair. Further confirmation that she’s really into him. How about the man, now? He’s sitting standing/sitting cross-legged/cross-armed, which usually are indicators of disinterest. I guess he wasn’t too impressed by her.

Another example is one from my own observational notes, whilst I was abroad in Ottawa, Canada: A young woman, aged between 24 – 27, perhaps, stood opposite me on a bus. I couldn’t help but notice the numerous slash marks – some recent, and some older – on the underside of her forearms. My train of thought at that moment: Slash marks > self harm > going through a rough period in life? > suffers from depression? Prompting the next obvious question in my head: What made her do this to herself?

You’d be amazed at the possibilities, assumptions, or conclusions you can arrive at by doing this exercise. All by picking up on these little idiosyncrasies.

And by all means, feel free to take notes of whatever you hear or see! Who knows? Maybe you’re so intrigued by a particular person that he/she inspires you to come up with the next character for a novel you’re writing. Or just keep an observation journal for yourself.

So next time you’re out, whether it’s for lunch with the family, a business meeting, or a get-together with your mates, pay more attention to your surroundings. Be aware. Remember: See. Listen. Observe. S.L.O.

Needless to say, there are tons of articles on this topic which you could find online, by making a simple Google search. However, for more in-depth information on the various types of body language,  people’s behaviour, habits etc., I highly recommend “Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language“. The name says it all.

I guess, at times, actions do speak louder than words…

– Preston Carbonaro