Blog Post 2: An Afternoon at the RPAC

I am no stranger to people watching. Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved to go sit somewhere and observe those around me. Some of my favorite places to ease-drop and observe are at coffee shops, long lines, parties, before and after class when everyone is settling in, etc. The world really has some interesting people in it!  Therefore, it was exciting that one of our assignments was to go observe. However, I never had observed people before with the purpose being to examine communication, so this was a new experience for me.

A buzzing place on campus is the RPAC; on Saturday afternoon, I casually walked around the gym area, doing some light exercises to blend in.

After absorbing what was happening around me, I started to search for verbal communication patterns. Verbal communication is pretty easy to recognize, and I did not see much out of the ordinary. Some forms of verbal communication I observed are people casually chatting with each-other. Some people watching TV or listening to phones while working out. In this case, communication served as a distraction for them from the pain or boredom of working out. This made me think that perhaps in a hospital setting patients might want to chat or watch t.v. as a form of distraction from pain. There were also written instruction around the gym intended to keep people safe and let guests know how to appropriately use equipment. Finally, there were written announcements posted all throughout the RPAC letting students know about upcoming events, opportunities, etc.

However, the real deal at the gym is non-verbal communication. I knew from class that non-verbal communication can consists of posture, appearance, facial expression, tone, eye-contact, gestures, and more. To start, posture helped me figure out quickly how tired a person was. All around me were guests hunched over, hands on knees, breathing heavy, collapsing back after a tough set, etc. In the case of the gym, posture was less indicative of mood like boredom vs. excitement but more indicative of physical exhaustion. Next, appearance at the gym is super interesting. The first thing I noticed was that the gym is a place where some social rules can disappear. For example, it is acceptable for a professional  to come workout and wear sweatpants and a t-shirt. A grown man might wear short shorts. A girl may walk around in just a sports bra and leggings. On the other hand, some students were in there with fully matching workout outfits and full hair and makeup. I wondered what these appearances might be trying to tell me. Was the girl with the full makeup rushing from somewhere and didn’t have time to take it off? Was she using makeup because she loved it and it made her feel good while working out? Was she using makeup because she is insecure to be working out without it? Facial expression also gave a lot away about people. I saw many grimaces and scowls, but in the context of the gym, I don’t think these people were angry. They were in pain! I also saw many smiles- gotta love those post-workout endorphins! Tone was harder for me to pick up on. I didn’t hear too many people talking. I did notice though a few guys yelling at each-other in an encouraging manner. I also noticed some of the signs in the RPAC were bolded or capitalized; this helped emphasize the importance of the message. As for eye-contact, it occurred to me that many guests avoided eye contact. Perhaps going to the gym is a private activity for some people? It is funny that I have been told before that the gym is a great place to meet new people, yet I did not see anyone at the RPAC engaging socially with someone they didn’t come with originally. Finally, gestures were important in the gym as well. There were random people just using hands as normal when talking. There was a trainer motioning to a guy how to lift weights, and  all of the workout equipment had pictures showing how the equipment was supposed to be used and which muscles it would work. As a beginner when it comes to lifting, that is super helpful!

Technology usage in the gym consisted of people talking and texting on phones, videos and media used to lead someone’s workout, using t.v. and music for distraction, scales, etc. I actually used a blood pressure machine while I was there too! That was super cool to me because it let me know what my current BP and HR was and also had written on the machine what numbers were “good” and when to seek medical assistance. This could be lifesaving in the gym if someone happened to workout to hard or was curious about their health and ended up discovering medical problems.

All in all, this was a fun project. I enjoyed seeing how people communicate around me, and the next time I find myself people watching, I plan to take note of their communication patterns as well!

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