You may wonder how this topics relates to communication, so let me head that question off at the pass.
The way we act and behave has a direct connection to our integrity and character, which are communicated to those around us in a multitude of ways. Watching people can't reveal everything about their character but it sure does tell a very interesting story.
Just sit in an airport or at a restaurant for awhile and you'll see the most interesting things. There are actually websites devoted to the art of people-watching. I may not have taken the official course, but wowee, I feel I have some auditing credits under my belt.
I was in the breakfast area of my hotel this morning. After jockeying for position at the toaster ("oops, is this your toaster slot?" "Nope, go ahead, I think that has been sitting there awhile"), I sat down to enjoy a nice bit of people watching with apricot preserves. A well-dressed gentleman entered the breakfast area holding his briefcase. A very polite server asked him if he wanted to take a seat. The gentleman replied, "I'm not sure I'm going to eat breakfast" and continued towards the food as if he was going to check it out or maybe see if a colleague was already there. I happened to have a bird's eye view and, as the server turned away to wait on someone else, the very nicely dressed gentleman walked over to the buffet, grabbed a banana and a muffin and......wait for it!.......shoved them into his briefcase. WHAT? Did I really just see you do that?
Now, I totally adhere to Stephen Covey's habit of highly effective people to "seek first to understand". Perhaps he was on a scavenger hunt, and items 8 and 9 on the list were "a banana and a muffin from a hotel breakfast buffet". Perhaps he lost his wallet and simply couldn't find a way to pay for his morning sustenance. But....really???
Just on the heels of that gem, I saw a beautifully-dressed woman walk by our tables. A gentleman at a neighboring table gazed at her walking for a good 2, 3, 4, maybe 10 seconds...... as his wife and two little girls sat by his side. Did I really just see you do that? Again, seek first to understand. Maybe even though he seemed to be looking at her like I look at the Culver's cherry-chocolate concrete, maybe--just maybe---he thought she looked like his long-lost cousin and he was staring to be certain.
Just for today, perhaps I should remember that no matter what we do, someone is likely always watching us. I am going to be determined to act in a way that I would not be embarrassed to be seen doing everything I do today.