This article presents reasons for adopting an “observer identity” as a default starting point to your analysis of social relationships.
Our contentment with the goals we set for ourselves is dented when watching others so vehemently achieve their own. People seem to know exactly who they are, what they need to do, and where they need to be. As you look from one side to the other, you’ll find your neighbors always moving, doing something; tweaking a thing here, fixing a thing there. Their actions will seem clear, decisive.
There’s Unease Around Unlabeled Relationships
A common – yet often unspoken – state of mind is one in which we feel directionless for brief stints during our days. As we sit and evaluate our past actions in how they align with our goals for the future, we’re often unsatisfied and seek to make a change. The point between knowing we have to make a change and deciding on what exact changes to make is uncomfortable. Being indecisive is having the unknown breathing down our necks; it’s anxiety inducing.
Your relationships with people have a similar component guiding them. We seem to quickly and thoughtlessly characterize aspects of our relationships and interactions with others. Often without thinking a second thought, we assign those around us roles, identities, and habits which we may not have sufficient information about.
With those assumptions made, our social tendencies toward those same people begin shifting based on our – perhaps unfounded – assumptions about them. There seems to be a discomfort associated with simply not knowing what a person we know means to us.
- How do they fit into our lives?
- In which ways do we mesh?
- What are safe topics to bring up around them?
- What are they good at?
Questions such as those are answered quickly and social parameters are drawn as a result. Those parameters often help us in navigating our social relationships. They guide us on who to talk to about what, but those same parameters can also limit your experience with the people in your life. Labels and identities do a good job of shaping the types of interactions you have with others, and often place a cap on the richness of communication available to achieve.
Patterns Are Vivid When Your Gaze Ascends
The decision to pursue your goals in a certain manner depends on gathering information, analyzing what you’ve gathered, and making an informed decision.
For instance, whilst electing to make a significant career transition, you’re likely to ask people for advice, read informative articles on the internet, and scout the general direction your new career path is veering toward.
In the moments when you’re still indecisive and haven’t befriended the darkness that indecisiveness produces, rest assured that assuming the observer identity is a first step that will aid you in any goal you land on down the line. In its initial phases, the assumption of an observer identity will rid you of the apprehension you have about the situation you find yourself in – whatever it may be. Adopting the observer identity entails focusing on the world around you as it objectively presents itself.
The goal to keep in mind is the collection of information – without a single directive guiding your collection per se – as an effort to generally benefit your decisions down the line. As you begin adopting the identity of a passive observer, others’ tendencies to quickly fall into a group identity without spending enough time in the transition phases becomes evident.
This consequence of adopting the observer identity makes its mark on our social lives as we begin noticing others naturally organizing into predictable groups with predictable reactions. The simple tendency to always be the observer – not the conductor – of reality will best help you rid any inaccuracies which you observe others’ behavior with.
You’ll begin recognizing the earliest signs of behavior change in others, and you’ll grow to be someone who isn’t rigid in perceiving people in accordance to their past identities. These developed traits will positively impact your social skills.
The Purest Perspective of Interaction – And the Strategy Around It
Others’ willingness to label themselves is why quickly labeling our relationships with them is easy and barrier-free. People adopt identities which they feel socially suit them best. Those identities change with time, but their underlying tendency to identify with groups, places, and roles doesn’t go away.
Make it a rule of thumb to allow those you speak with to present their own identities to be labeled by, without making assumptions on your end first. Doing so will ensure you remain honest to the perception that the individual has of themselves.
Taking it a step further, though you’d begin to recognize the identities someone associates by, you don’t have to necessarily accept their identities as truth to act around yourself.
Their process of identifying by – and labeling themselves with – certain traits is a truth in itself, even if the things they identify with are false. Reacting to the validity of someone’s labels isn’t as beneficial to your social relationship with them as reacting to the presence of that label itself.
For example, a co-worker may endlessly reminisce about their highschool athletics days. To you, it may become clear that the individual in question considers one of their identities in life to encompass being athletic. That would be a truth for you to strategize your interactions with them around despite the possibility of them not resembling an athletic individual in any way.
Observing the Observer
As you adopt the observer identity in regards to the interactions you partake in, don’t forget to observe your own thoughts about the observations of others that are constantly streaming in.
Though you may be doing a good job of refraining from boxing people into certain identities, beware of the subtle effects that your observations have on your social outlook. As an observer of social interactions, you’ll recognize times when people are lying, times when they’re trying to save face, and times when they allow their egos to run rampant. In general, weak spots in people’s social mannerisms will become apparent.
Noticing the darker sides of your social interactions and relationships will encourage you to develop a cynical perspective of them. You’ll become more of a strategist rather than participant of conversations – which isn’t a bad thing. However, as you strategize, refrain from falling through the weakened floorboards that cynicism introduces.
This specific type of negativity is much more subtle in its effect. Though you’d still remain an observer of others’ actions and dialogue around you, your observations have the capacity to slowly veer off the objective path.
Observing the observer is the implementation of checks and balances to ensure that your observations aren’t being subtly influenced by the process of observation itself.