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How to Observe People Without Being Noticed

Nicholl McGuire has been providing useful content on websites since 2007. Learn more about her business Nicholl McGuire Media.


I See You, But You Don't See Me

People have their reasons as to why they need to observe others without being detected. Some choose to watch others because they seek to learn something about them. Others view people from a distance because they simply aren't ready to interact with certain ones. A person who desires to know more, without playing a part in the movie of one's life, might find great satisfaction in simply being a viewer and might not want to cause any emotional harm if he or she didn't play the best part in one's life in the past.

So how might you observe others without being noticed? Well it all depends on how you might want to view them. Do you want to watch this person online or would you like to spend some time offline observing he or she? You might want to do both. Would you like to view them interacting with family, co-workers, at church, with children, or in some other environment? Once you know where you would like to watch this person, now you are ready to roll up your sleeves and start learning more about them.

One. What exactly do you want to know about what you might assume is an interesting person? Jot down some notes. For instance, do you want to learn more about how this person cares for the elderly at a job? What he or she likes to do when there is free time? How does a parent respond to his or her children? What an employee might do when training new workers? How a group interacts with their clients?

Two. Be sure that the person or group is unaware that you even desire to watch them. This means that conversing with him or her or even an acquaintance on a daily basis or inviting yourself to one's environment might alert him or her that you are up to something. You want to get a fair assessment of who this person really is; for example, what he or she likes or dislikes, not in-person, but from a distance. You wouldn't want this person to alter their personality or change his or her daily living just because he or she knows you need some information from them.

Three. Disguise who you are if you ever need to make direct contact with this person or use someone else you trust who doesn't know him or her to assist you during this period of observation. You can use things like a hat, sunglasses, wig, etc. One who doesn't know person personally will give an unbiased opinion about his or her mannerisms or statements, because he or she isn't concerned about one's feedback getting back to this person and he or she isn't puzzled over why you need to know XYZ about your subject either.

Four. Don't tell people who might know this person what you are doing.

Five. Watch from public areas so that isn't obvious you are looking at this person. Assuming that you have some idea where this person likes to go, watch him or her from behind a newspaper, Ipad, or have headphones on so that it appears you are occupied.

Six. Walk by the person when he or she is talking or pretend to fix your shoe or pick up something.

Seven. Take a seat nearby. Close enough, yet far away from the action. If outdoors, you can use a long telephoto lens on a camera or binoculars. You will have to appear as if you are birdwatching, taking photos of landscape, a nearby building, etc.

Eight. Following this person might be tricky especially because there are lies against stalking, so be sure that if you should need to watch this person's routines that you are discreet about it.

Nine. Talk to neighbors or acquaintances casually and bring up a conversation about your subject in such a way that it doesn't boldly ask, "So do you think you can tell me something about your friend?" Instead, you comment about the neighborhood or talk as if you know something, even though you really don't, people love to correct someone when they are wrong or appear more knowledgeable, so let them talk then flatter them. Then make general references that lead into a discussion about your subject. For example, "There seems to be a lot of people coming and going out of your apartment building carrying boxes." Then the person might say, "...really, I hadn't noticed" or "like who..." or "I noticed that too" then you can say, "Like the other day I noticed a man and a woman with two small children struggling to carry a box..." In this case, the interviewer is bringing up something that may not have happened, but it will encourage the interviewee to think, add to the discussion, or share additional knowledge.

Ten. When you want to collect a paper trail on a person, the Internet has many tools to help. You can also view various social profiles sometimes without needing an account. However, on some sites you do, so do create a fun name, one that will peak the person's interest and have lots of interesting things on your page to encourage this person to want to connect and often visit. This way you can see his or her online activity which also helps you find out where else on the Internet they like to hang out. Then connect with this person on those sites too. Periodically do a search to see what other things they do online. Sometimes you are able to find more about a person through relatives, friends and co-workers who have connected with them online. If you don't want to be noticed, don't use your real name and use an interesting graphic or clip art.

There are those individuals reading this that have good reason to find out things about others. Maybe a business owner needs to find out whether a person is who she really says she is or a mother needs to find out information about her wayward child. Sometimes people need to make lifelong decisions, but don't know whether they trust certain individuals like a potential spouse. Whatever the reason, you can observe people without being noticed and through the process, learn a lot about yourself.

When People Watching Gets One in Trouble

You don't want to be that one marked as the busybody, weird one, or something else simply because you like to go out each day and people watch. However, observing others becomes a problem when one doesn't know how to stay in his or her place. When he or she prefers to be a part of the action rather than sit back and watch the movie. So if you don't want to be that one treated rudely because you "look at me too much," here's what you need to do.

Casually look at people, but don't stare at them. Sometimes you will see something that will make you say to yourself, "What is he doing?" But you don't know if he is aware that you watching him, so don't be obvious with your viewing, look away periodically. Use the side of your eyes to keep watching if you must.

Don't draw attention to yourself with deep sighs, groans, moans, or doing other annoying things just so that you can be a part of someone else's world. Oftentimes people don't want others being in their space, but those that they know. So unless your invited, don't make yourself out to be a nuisance with your unnecessary noises and interruptions.

Avoid going out of your way to see something. Many people have been injured tripping over themselves and others just to take a peek out the window or catch a glimpse of something that they know they shouldn't. If it isn't within view, don't bother risking your health or maybe even your wealth trying to see it.

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Assuming that because you see one or two people of a certain gender, culture, or faith behave the same way, whether positively or negatively, that all people in the group act that way.

When observing people naturally, know that your moment is yours alone and no one can take that from you; however, realize that your personal feelings about someone or something is a matter of perception and most likely does not represent the majority view.


The Benefits of People-Watching

There are some good things that you can receive when you take the time to watch someone else's movie, so to speak, of life in real time; rather than be a part of it all the time. You learn new things, find out more about others, grow spiritually, get a good laugh, and more.

I have found that for me people watching has inspired, motivated, and caused me to be more cautious about doing some things. Observing people naturally, not obtrusively, has helped me attain knowledge about all sorts of subject matter.

Now some have their reasons for people watching that either brought them peace or made them think even worse of others. It is all up to the observer to either take what he or she has discovered and see the glass half full or go off in life seeing the glass half empty--you decide.

Learn more about people watching look up naturalistic observation in your search engine.

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People Watching: What's Your View

Things You Can Do Online to People-Watch

Ever take the time to visit other people's pages not as a commenter, contributor, or something else, but simply as an observer? When you do this, you can enjoy the person's body of work much more, because you are allowing your mind to view his or her content free of judgment and without an obligation to interact with it. When people-watching online you will need: an email address that doesn't reveal your full name, profiles that don't display who you are or others you know, possibly and a different computer to work from since many sites do track your ISP address. People watching online requires time and sometimes patience especially when some sites are very busy, tend to shut down, or are slow.

1. Visit chat-rooms and forums, but don't participate in the discussions.

2. View a certain individual's profiles and public messages on social media sites without commenting, liking, etc. However, some sites might have a program set up to alert the person that you viewed his or her page.

3. Go to Google images and YouTube videos and you can view as many images as you like related to the individual without every talking to he or she in person.

4. You can catch live video of people on sites like Justin TV and live talk radio like BlogTalk Radio or Talkshoe.

5. Stop by "How-to" sites, personal blog pages, and more. You will find many videos and pictures where you can learn some new things and never have to worry about someone calling on you to participate.

You are never alone in Internet world. When it's cold, rainy, snowy, or all of the above, just sit back in your favorite chair, grab a warm blanket, and view others online.


Nicholl McGuire (author) from Los Angeles County on November 01, 2012:

I thought the same thing when I first started putting this together (a suggestion made by Hub Pages) but I realized that we do this at times for various reasons. From building a court case to finding the love of your life.

vonda g nelson on October 27, 2012:

Observing someone without being noticed sounds creepy and comes across as stalkish. Especially if you do not know them or have a legit reason to be "observing" them.

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