I promise I'm not a snob!
November 19, 2012 2:50 AM   Subscribe

How do I become more aware of my surroundings and less of a space cadet?

Recently it has been brought to my attention by two acquaintances that they walked by me on the street and thought I completely ignored them because I looked past them and did not respond to their waves or calls. Ack! When I am walking I always am thinking of other stuff or listening to music, but I really don't want people to think I am ignoring them- I wouldn't do that. In both cases I just didn't see the people at all.

I asked a good friend if I do this and he said that sometimes I seem to be thinking of other stuff but that he doesn't feel I've ignored him. But I am a little worried that I have done this to others. I am introverted but I do want to meet more people and be on friendly terms with others. Now I am worried that some people think I am stand-offish when really the issue is I am somewhat of a space cadet (I'm pretty friendly with people I know, when I notice them!)

Do any of you have any suggestion on how to be more aware of my surroundings, notice and greet people more? I really don't want to appear unfriendly!
posted by bearette to Human Relations (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe don't listen to music for a while then? Also, actively cultivate curiosity/alertness by i.e. counting people in hats, "I bet I see four pushchairs before the next traffic lights", "Ten points if I see ten misspelled signs before I reach Y" etc. ...
posted by runincircles at 3:04 AM on November 19, 2012

When I took an awareness course for drivers, the instructor introduced us to a technique where you basically do an internal (or even out-loud) commentary on everything you're doing and all of the things around you, so as to be an active participant in your environment. So, for a driver, this would mean saying to yourself "Ok, there's a school coming up on the left, so watch for children, and I can see traffic lights in the distance - they could be red soon. Watch the parked cars in case someone opens a door or steps out between them... someone's pulling out up ahead - check speed, check mirrors..." and so on.

You could use a similar technique when you're out walking. Obviously walking on the street offers fewer hazards than driving, but you could still run an internal commentary, perhaps by considering where each of the people you pass might be going, or guessing their ages. Or, on preview, make up some games as runincircles suggests.
posted by pipeski at 3:35 AM on November 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Noticing people is half the battle. I tap myself lightly on my neck/collar bone/wrist sometimes when I'm reading/writing/lap-topping or doing something "disembodied," a suggestion of an old therapist. I think I notice people more? At very least I don't completely lose track of my surroundings as much. Whenever I catch myself spacing out I recenter by pulling myself back down and tapping available bare skin. It's sort of like pinching yourself to remind yourself that you're not dreaming, but less painful. It helps me! I'm much less oblivious.
posted by sweltering at 4:21 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pretend you're a spy. Set yourself awareness tasks like, can you see the same person twice in this shopping mall, or using just your peripheral vision to work out what is going on.

In terms of seeing people you know. I'm awesome at it. If we're bored, Mrs MM and I will challenge one another to a game of who can spot either someone they know or a celeb first. If you're looking for it, you will see people lots of times you know or vaguely know. The extra challenge is then remembering their name.

But that's me. I'll also be driving down a street nearby and declare that such and such a shop has opened and be told it's been there for 18 months. And I also cop grief for not always paying attention when I'm sitting down to eat.

In summary: there are lots of types of blindspots. If you want to notice people more, look up and actively scan for people you know.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:13 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you had your eyes checked recently? I'm an introvert with a rich inner life and all, but this same issue improved dramatically for me once I finally caved in and got glasses.
posted by trunk muffins at 5:44 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

You answered the question yourself: start being a snob! keep your mind occupied by judging people's clothes and cars and stuff.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 5:46 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I do this. I've actually warned people I just met that this happens, a few times they've been like, Oh me too! We'll joke about passing by each other every day on the street and not noticing.

If I wanted to deal with, I'd start small. Make sure to stay engaged with the world for the first block, then every couple weeks add a block or two. Trying to stay engaged all the time right away would be too daunting.

Personally though, I walk around tons and I live in a very dense area, scanning everyone's face and being totally aware of all of them would be like a second, exhausting, job. It takes a lot of mental energy just manoeuvring around people on the way to lunch.
posted by Dynex at 6:28 AM on November 19, 2012

Response by poster: thanks for all the good advice!

Just to note, I am aware of my surroundings in a general sense: I don't bump into people/vehicles despite living in a very densely populated area (China- there are all kinds of bikes, cars and people everywhere). I cross heavily-trafficked streets with ease. I also think my danger radar is pretty good (weird people following me, etc- I notice that!) It's just that I sometimes don't "see" individual faces somehow, if that makes sense. I don't think I am in danger but I do feel bad for not noticing people and them thinking I am snubbing them.

I DO think new glasses might help, though, that is a good point.
posted by bearette at 6:56 AM on November 19, 2012

Here's an odd piece of advice that you probably didn't see coming (grin). Do you enjoy photography?

I have poor vision, but I also love photography. A few years ago, I made it a priority to start photo-walking around town. It's great fun! I'll meet up with a friend, wander for an hour or two, snapping pictures as we go until we end up at a pub for a happy hour break. It's a great hobby... aaaaaaaaaaaaand... it has helped me to become far more aware of my surroundings.

I've unintentionally taught myself to notice things as I walk, and it's made quite a huge difference.

You don't need a fancy camera, though it's even better if you have one... even a smart-phone will do. In fact, sometimes, my iPhone is the only camera I'll wander with, though I usually shoot with a DSLR.

There's a link to my photoblog on my profile page here. Click my name to view it if you're curious. Nearly EVERYTHING on that blog was taken within walking distance from my front door.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:24 PM on November 19, 2012

« Older Which computer is faster/better and is it worth...   |   Gravy without giblets? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.