Chances are you are reading this on your mobile ‘phone, a tablet or a laptop, enjoying the mobility that is provided by accessing content such as this from an electronic device. You might be at home, curled up on the sofa or you quite possibly are reading this sat on a stool in the kitchen waiting for a pan to boil or a microwave to go ping. Alternatively, you may be on the bus or train, perusing this latest piece of writing with other people nearby and passing you by. Can you see the bus driver? You can. How did you know that it was him? By virtue of his position at the steering wheel of the vehicle, obviously. His uniform and company livery on his shirt, jumper or jacket might also tell you his role. You may be stopped at a station or some traffic lights and you can see a police officer handling an enquiry, marshalling the traffic, handing out a ticket or just casting a watching eye over the world around him or her. How did you know that he or she is a police officer? The uniform stands out most distinctly, as it is intended to do. Easy to spot isn’t he?
How about the man sat across from you? Who is he and what does he do? He is engrossed in the content of his tablet but you can see that he isn’t reading but is looking at some charts. An analyst maybe? A salesman checking his sales performance? A statistician looking over the latest data concerning crime rates in the city? He could be any of those couldn’t he but you could make an educated guess as to his role. What about the lady who is getting on the bus now, what can you tell about her? She is struggling with a buggy and two large bags of shopping as she is ensuring a toddler also clambers on board. Most likely a housewife and clearly a mother. You can see a wedding band on one of her fingers so she is married. Her husband is probably at work as she attends to the running of the house. You have gathered all that in a moment.
Perhaps you are walking home and as you scroll through this article you notice that someone is walking behind you. You lower your ‘phone and look over your shoulder to see a well-dressed gentleman walking briskly along carrying a briefcase. You do not regard him as a threat and you resume looking at your ‘phone as he catches you up and then passes you without incident. Your assessment of him was proven correct. Just like the time you approached a subway late at night and saw half a dozen tracksuit wearing youths hovering nearby. You were taller than them and older than them but something about the way they were stood made you realise that they were looking for trouble so you decided against taking the subway and found a different route albeit longer and circuitous but your safety mattered more than your aching feet.
You evaluate and assess everyone you meet. In conversations with friends you sit and listen and look for visual cues that they are interested in what you are saying. Poker players scrutinise their opponents as they look for the “tells” to assist their gameplay. Boxers stare into one another’s eyes before the bout begins seeing who will break off the stare first and concede a psychological advantage to his opponent. Judges watches witnesses carefully and through their facial expressions they are given hints as to whether the witness is giving his or her evidence in a truthful manner, this observation allowing the judge to assess the veracity of the witness. In bed with your intimate partner you will watch their face and listen to the sounds they make to ascertain what is working for them and what you should do more of. You can tell by the way somebody is walking through the office that with shoulders hunched and head down they are not in the mood to be approached and asked a question about a forthcoming meeting. That person in the corner of the room at the party is staring at the floor feeling too shy to speak to people. Each and every day you assess hundreds of people and make an instant decision as to who they are, whether you like them, whether you want to help them or if they present a threat to you. You instinctively know that certain ways the eyes look amounts to a warning, the slope of the mouth denotes irritation, the tilt of the head confirms a certain cockiness. The way someone stands, sits, walks and gesticulates all tells you something which you process in an instant. You gather so much from a lifetime of watching nostrils flare, lips thin, chins jut, brows furrow and eyes widen. Assessment after assessment is made and invariably accurate ones which enable you to negotiate your way through the day, through life as you interact with so many people in your private life, in business and socialising. You are highly adept at reading the signals, working people out and anticipating what will happen next. It is a highly developed and impressive skill.
Astonishing how much of this goes out of the window when you meet one of us.