Sunday, May 6, 2007

Observing people.

Me and my girl get into frequent arguments about how ascerbic, cribby and, in her words, bitchy (girls!) I can be. Her favorite quote being, why must you comment on everything, analyse everything going around you? Why, if some fat woman has come to the movies wearing an outfit revealing more tummy than rest of the hall has, does it tick you off?

Why do you have to notice everyone in a restaurant and how they behave or act? And then why must you eat my head sitting for hours talking about why person X behaved or did what he did. Why? why? WHY?

Why dissect every nuance in a sentence spoken by someone? People blurt out things all the time?

I'll spare you the details of how I work my immense charm and get her to calm down but suffice to say, it is not something everyone can do. You have to be gifted and lucky. Mostly lucky :)

I have no answer to her questions except that observing people is my ongoing experiment. It might sound crazy but its fun and you learn a lot about people, which is important.

Observing people is like a hobby and a learning exercise. The more you watch, the more you learn and the more you learn, the more you understand and understanding people is always good. Ask people in any profession, from Investment banking to brand management, from advertising to publishing. Everything depends on understanding of people. So irrespective of the profession you are in you need to understand people.

It is said that to understand others, you must first understand yourself. This is perhaps the most misunderstood statement. It isnt a circumspect way of saying "mind your own business" But the best way to understanding people is to understand your own actions and reactions.

A branch off could be for you to say things for the heck of it and observing how people react. Some will be shocked, some amused and usually some won't care but each reaction or non reaction will teach you something about a person.

You could say this is a self learning method for manipulating people, you could be right but if you think about it, manipulating people isn't necessarily wrong in itself. It is WHY you manipulate them that defines the correctness.

Just walk into a mall and don't just hear people talking listen to them talk. Listen to the words they use, listen to the inflections in their voice, watch their body language and soon, by just looking at them, you will be able to tell whether they are genuine buyers or not.

A restaurant will teach you more about peer pressure than school. Look around and you will find people picking at their food and desperate to make small talk so they can forget about it for a while. Why? Its not because they are upset and didn't want to eat. If they were, they could've simply not ordered. Its because they ordered what they don't like. Maybe because what they like is the wrong thing to order with the crowd they are with.

Its intriguing to observe and sometimes even chat up people. It expands ones views and understanding of people as a whole. It can even make you more patient with them.

If you think about it, it isnt as creepy as it sounds. It is the most natural thing, to notice those around you. It is our "mind your own business" mindset which has created these silos and erected the barriers most of us live within. But we don't have to and we shouldn't.


  1. I guess you are taking your work home!! you are suppose to comment on gadgets remember...but i partly agree...

  2. 1. How is this equal to taking my work home?
    2. Why am i supposed to comment on gadgets only?
    3. Which part do u agree with, which part do you not agree with?

  3. 1)dont you review gizmos?? you use to analyzing things that you are analyzing and judging ppl..
    2)its a democracy comment on any goddam thing ya!!
    3)The part tht it is intriguing to do so, tht u can learn a lot.... disagree cause you can label me to be in one of those barriers..mind ur business stufff

  4. 1. i dont review gizmos anymore :) i used to. and, in gizmos, understanding people is most important because ultimately, people use gizmos so while a gizmo might be technically brilliant, if people cant /dont wanna use it, its useless so that perspective is most important.

    2. True, india is a democracy, i never said u cant comment on anything :)

    3. I am with you on "mind your own business" but observing people and noting things is not automatically equivalent to interfering. You can mind your own business and STILL observe people :)

  5. oh and, analyzing does not also automatically mean judging.

  6. well i purposely added the word judging cause you will start categorizing ppl based on their behavioral patterns after u have had a large sample.. :)

  7. "cause u will start categorizing.."

    That is judgemental :)

    And, you are reading TOOOO much stats man :))

  8. its human behavior.. try avoiding it..its like studies tht relate ppl personality by the cars they drive..the colour they choose...the brand they wear... its all you explained on branding & advertising example of this could be the "my visual dna" link which was found on your page sometime back...wht would have been the idea behind it... take a large sample of ppl study them and map their traits..too much statistics i guess u right!!

  9. Its actually reverse, people are analyzed for what they are what will appeal to them, and THEN brands are created for that.

    But yeah, i do agree its all intertwined and its too fascinating to not study.

    Interesting that you mention the visual DNA bit, but I doubt they initially took a large sample of people. They have a bunch of images you can associate your own traits with so they are doing a pretty massive survey which could be used in heck of a lot of ways.

    For example, all those who chose "my freedom" to reflect travel, could be targets of travel promotions.

    Similarly, working backwards, people's traits could then be analyzed to find patterns. Who knows, it could even be used to build an algorithm for serving up ads potentially dethroning Google :)

    And as for cars and people that drive them, I would like to point you to Jeremy Clarkson shows where he travels and studies various cultures based on their car histories. Its the most awesome way of "connecting the dots". If you ever get the time, watch it, it will raise your understanding (and maybe concerns about the implications) to a completely new level.

    And in the end, no matter how much we deny, we are all ultimately part of a general trend. Trend, not fad.

  10. i guess we both saying the same thing.. no matter for wht the output is used.. it is utimately the product of generalisation... :)

  11. Actually.. no what I'm saying is that generalization is infact the product of observation.

    And how we use the output, viz generalization, is dependent on interpretation on creativity of the "user"

  12. i guess u have stated step 0 where as both my comments started from step 1..which is y i say we saying the same is obvious tht u will generalise the observations recorded..(if there is no observation wht will u generalise)and plug it where ever applicable (the output).. like you said of the travel snap...i think jaada ho gaya! :)

  13. hmmm... I see where the gap is. You are saying that obviously, observations are generalised.

    No, they aren't really. Observations are unique. Each is separate.

    The generalisation then comes when you put the observation together. So, the observations aren't being generalised, that would be wrong.

    Essentially, you look for a pattern and try to see why that is.

    Why am I being so stuck up about this you might ask:

    This line from the post should've been a hint ;)

    "Why dissect every nuance in a sentence spoken..."

  14. Well to end this i would say ... glass half full-half empty.. when a human is interpreting something ambiguity will persist.. so i agree :)… the final output would be different but the observation (act would be the same)...interpretation would be different hence the generalization different.. I hope we don’t get deeper into physiology now…:)

  15. Ah why not? Physiology and psychology are intricately linked :)