Observation is a data collection method used in ethnography and qualitative research. Observation method requires the researcher to gather knowledge, information, and data about the research topic through observing the phenomena as it unfolds. There are fundamental observation rules that a researcher should observe (McEwan & Horn, 2016). A researcher should observe human behavior, the phenomenon being studied, and the human interactions relating to the phenomenon. One should observe both verbal and nonverbal expressions as this plays a very important role in understanding how people communicate and relate to one another. This case scenario will seek to observe people, communication methods, and habits by observing them in a public restaurant. The observation will be done clandestinely, which according to (Stephen & Willis, 2016), the main aim is to make sure that the people in the restaurant will be in the dark of the fact they are being observed and their communication habits recorded down. This is because people tend to alter their behaviors or communication habits when they know they are being observed.
To conduct this project, I chose to go to one of the biggest shopping malls in the city. A mall is a place that is visited by many people of all genders, age, social standing, and from different races and backgrounds. This mix of people was very important for this project, as it would have provided me with the chance to observe how people from different backgrounds communicate with one another (McEwan & Horn, 2016). I went to this mall at around 3:30 pm in the evening and sat strategically in a place where I had a very wide viewing angle. This was very important, as I would be able to observe a large number of people.
I wanted to observe how people use space. What I noticed is that people used spaces very differently. For people who did know each other or they were not acquaintances, they tended to stand like a meter from one another. When speaking to one another they also tended to respect this space between each other. For example, when waiters were taking an order for dinner, they stood a distance away from the diner and showed everyone understood the importance of respecting the personal space. However, this was contrasted when people were talking to their loved ones or friends. These people tended to stand close to each other, which showed affection and having a sense of security. The people that were present in the mall were many. There were young, young adults, middle-aged people, as well as, the old. All the races were represented in the mall. There were blacks, Caucasians, Arabs, Hispanics, as well as Asians.
From what I observed within the 30 minutes I was in this mall was the unique and complex communication methods people use in their daily activities. People use both verbal and non-verbal communication methods to pass messages from one another. Verbal communication was the most used communication method between different parties. In the restaurant, people were speaking to waiters to orders their meals. The waiters, on the other hand, replied to these people in verbal and nonverbal communication such as shaking of heads, nodding, and smiling. All these types of communication signified friendliness and respect from both parties. It also showed a cordial relationship between many people that were in the mall. However, there were conversations that were very interesting to me as an observer.
These communications were going on between two people who knew each other. For example, there was a young couple in the restaurant and they were very jolly and happy. The young couple in their mid-twenties could not keep their hands from each other. They were always smiling at one another and they kept holding their hands the whole time they were in the restaurant. They at one time laughed out aloud drawing attention to themselves. The thing I observed about this couple is that they were so much in love and they liked the company of each other. The fact that they were looking at each other affectionately they were actually communicating to one another expressing their love and affection. The fact that they kept on holding hands or one placing their hands over the shoulder of their partners showed that they were feeling secure in the company of each other and that they could not afford to be without the company of the other party.
I observed that people from different culture treat personal or intimate spaces very different. What I noticed is that people from Asian descent did not seem to be respecting personal spaces very well. For instance, I observed one Asian woman standing close to a black person and from what I could observe; they did not know each other but were complete strangers.
After observing people going about their daily routine in the mall, I would have gone after the Asian woman and the black African man and ask them a number of questions about their communication process that I had observed. I would have liked to ask them three questions to help me expand my knowledge on how different people communicate both verbally and through nonverbal means.
McEwan, B., & Horn, D. (2016). Ily & can u pick up some milk: Effects of relational maintenance via text messaging on relational satisfaction and closeness in dating partners. Southern Communication Journal, 81(3), 168-181.
Stephen, N., & Willis, J. (2016). Interpersonal Communication Skills in the Workplace: EBook
Edition: New York, NY: Nelson Thornes.
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