Most of us will find ourselves in a group of people nearly every day. It can be a small group of one or more, or a larger group of ten or more people. Whether it’s a meeting at work, waiting in a checkout line, or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, we all have an opportunity to observe those around us and become aware of each one.
Observe the feeling you get from each person as you look at their face and their body language. Do they make you feel happy, sad, frightened, or comforted? Do they look excited, tired, cheerful, or impatient? Can you tell whether they are preoccupied and not paying attention to what is at hand, or do they turn and look around, as you are, showing signs of awareness?
This can be helpful when you are part of a captive audience where everyone’s attention is on one subject. This is when imagining yourself as an unattached bystander, looking from the outside in, can work easily. Say the subject is your boss, and the captive audience is your fellow coworkers. The boss has brought you all together for an important announcement. Try removing yourself by letting go of your own personal feelings towards the announcement and view the others in the group. Take several deep breaths and try focusing on each person. Become aware of their reaction to the news. What is their facial expression, can you see their body language change? Are they reacting positively, negatively, or neutrally? What kinds of feelings do you get from each person as you observe them? Become aware of how your senses are reacting. What can you hear? Did the room suddenly become very quiet, or can you hear people murmuring among themselves? Did the taste in your mouth change? Are you cold or hot? Are you sensing any particular smell? How is your breathing, fast or slow, rough or quiet? Focusing on the group should defuse your reaction, and you should experience a new understanding and awareness.
Practicing people awareness puts you in the present moment and gives you more awareness as to what is happening. This awareness can sometimes allow you to see a negative situation developing before others realize it. Over time, this practice will heighten your awareness to the point where you can rely on it to help you through nearly any situation. The understanding that develops will allow you to recognize and stop the instinctive, reactive behavior of your past, and you will find yourself able to make better choices and react in a more positive way.