Walk Like You Have a Right to Be There

by Eric Disco
Jun 29

You’re walking on the sidewalk, a little to the right as you normally do. It’s crowded with people to your left and right walking in both directions.

In front of you, walking in your direction toward you is a gorgeous woman. If both of you keep walking in the same direction, you’ll walk into each other.

What do you do? Do you move out of her way?

Most people do not consciously think about it. But if you live in a city like New York, it happens to you at least 50 times a day: Someone ends up walking directly toward you in your path.

It may not seem like such a big deal what happens next, but what you do is indicative of how you perceive your place in the world.

To change your direction in order to stay out of other people’s way communicates that you don’t have a right to be here, or in the very least, that you think other people have more of a right to walk on the sidewalk than you do.

When I walk on the sidewalk, I follow three rules.

  1. I don’t get out of the way of another person walking toward me. I look straight ahead and if I see someone walking toward me, I let them move out of the way. 98% of the time they do.
  2. If someone is stopped on the sidewalk, I need to walk around them. You’re not going to plow them over. (although if people are completely blocking the sidewalk, I will say, “excuse me”)
  3. If someone continues to walk toward me instead of changing my direction–which rarely happens–I slow down. On rare, rare occasions, I will slow down to a stop if they don’t change direction. If I’m stopped, and they keep walking, they will walk into me. If someone walks into me when I’m stopped, it’s their fault (see rule #2).

By following these simple rules, I maintain my own presence on the sidewalk.

Let’s take a look at how this works.

Sometimes there is a larger group of people walking toward me. A family is visiting town, or maybe even a larger group of tourists. They are all walking together. They are 3 or 4 abreast, next to each other. I do not get out of their way.

If it doesn’t look like they are going to go around me, I slow down–to a stop if I have to. I will not zigzag around the entire sidewalk trying to move out of the way of a group of people.

Most of the time, people sense your unwillingness to jump out of the way, and they change directions first. It’s unconscious. Most people don’t think about it.

It’s funny, but even extremely large guys will step aside, even if they’re 7 foot tall and full of muscle.

Let’s look at the worst case scenario here. Someone does not move out of your way. Let’s say they keep walking toward you at the same speed.

You simply slow down and make sure that you stop walking before they get to you. They’re not going to plow someone over who’s standing on the sidewalk. Then they’re being an asshole.

This tends to work better if you’re walking slowly, or else you would constantly have to slow down or stop to keep going in the same direction you want to go.

Very attractive women are one of the rare cases of people who sometimes do not change direction at first. They are used to other people noticing them and moving out of the way first.

It’s particularly funny to see them get flustered when you don’t get out of their way.

Two attractive women will be walking side-by-side. Crowds part like the red sea to let them pass.

Then they get to me.

I keep walking in the exact direction I’m headed. I normally walk slowly, but I’ll slow down even more if I need to rather than move out of their way.

They notice me and they split apart to walk around me. I keep eye contact with them the entire time.

You can almost hear it. Someone will say, “That’s an assholish thing to do.” But think about it. Why should I move out of someone else’s way instead of them moving out of my way?

Why does anyone else have more of a right than me to walk along the sidewalk?

You can almost hear a hot girl saying this, someone who expects others to give way to her.

Nope.

Not me.

By leaping out of the way for other people, I am in a sense apologizing for my presence. I am saying–with my body–that other people have more of a right to be there than I do.

If someone is trying to get a picture of their friends or family in the park, I’ll graciously stop and walk around. I have no problem with that.

If there is construction and the sidewalk is particular narrow and a woman can’t get through with her baby carriage, I’ll let her through.

But I won’t scurry around the sidewalk trying to stay out of people’s paths.

I slow down or stop if I need to, but I don’t change my direction. Simple as that.

It’s a great thing to practice, just to notice what people do. Body language is a subtle communication, an interaction with the subconscious minds of people around you.

Who pays attention to whom. Who gives way to whom.

Most people are completely unaware how their body language affects the way others feel about them–and how their own body language affects their feelings about themselves.

Now that I don’t move out of people’s way as much, walking along a sidewalk is much more relaxing. I feel confident in my presence.

I don’t worry as much about people around me or what they’re doing. Let them do what they do. I just need to worry about what I do.

I don’t get anxiety when I see a huge ocean of people walking toward me at a crosswalk at rush hour. They can walk around me.

I sense each approaching person a human being now, someone I interact with, play with, and communicate with, rather than an immovable automaton to be avoided, lest they plow me over.


Art by Crayonmaniac.

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posted in Body Language

COMMENTS
28 responses
Bok says:

Awesome article! Especially the last paragraph. Will apply!!
Love your blog…thanks

Francis says:

Great post Eric,

you do exactly what I’ve been doing! I tend to slow down or stop when people get to me, I’m a skinny guy and I would get bumped out of the way easily by most people if I don’t slow down or stop. People will never want to walk into a stationary person, but are willing to keep walking and bump shoulders with me.

It’s so amazing how people in busy streets like Oxford Street here in London will (subconsciously) never move out of your way, they’d carry on walking and bump shoulders with you. I’ve found doing exactly what you do Eric the big guys even group of shady looking thugs walk around me….wow! Never tried it with hot women, I think subconsciously I move out their way but now I’m going to more aware and demand my presence on the side walk.

Thanks for this gem Eric!

Francis

Smiecht says:

Lol i wonder what would happen if you have two Eric’s walking towards each other =)

Parisianon says:

Very interesting…

I like to walk FAST, even when I’m not listening to music, so usually around 120-125 bpm – make that steps per minute. Slowing down because of packs of slow plebs irks me a LOT – so do packs who hog a narrow pavement’s width, see you coming and never step aside in any way to have two “lanes” going. Or people who seemingly have no idea where they’re going or walk like they’re at a park in busy streets.

I step out of their way because I don’t want their apathy slowing me down, or something to that effect ; I usually go for the quickest uninterrupted path and have little patience for them.
My confidence in where I’m going probably shows in my BL and the groovy beats add a welcome spring to my step, but … now that you make me think of it, the tension and the suppressed anger initiated by those people WILL show as well, and overcome the rest.

So I suppose I’ll have to slow down then… I shall try this out.

nonstop says:

I’ve been doing this awhile, though mainly in regards to other “tougher” guys. The worst that’s ever happens was a non-threatening shoulder brush as we went by, both unwilling to move out the way. It was a last second compromise.

I need to work on standing strong towards women though, as I know I tend to be too polite with them and move out of the way.

Alfredo says:

Eric, I really like this article, but I actually felt slightly uncomfortable reading it because I know I am one of those people who dart around the sidewalk when walking.

Sometimes I try hard to keep on my select path, but then I will encounter some other person (usually a man bigger/more muscular than myself or any woman) who is barreling towards me. Like you said, we can both perceive that the other person is reluctant to move and it becomes a game of chicken to see who is going to move first. I usually lose. However, I never really tried the method of completely stopping like you mentioned.

I think a lot of it is that I dread conflict and lack confidence in myself. I believe most people only stay on course and don’t move when they think they can get away with it. For instance, a man who is 6’3 and 240 lbs. or a gang of youths may feel like they can intimidate everyone into getting out of the way using fear of retaliation if they don’t move. I know that sounds crazy, but people have been severely mauled or killed for much less than bumping shoulders or not moving out of the way. Beautiful women doing this is a no brainer since most of them always expect everyone to cater to their wants and needs.

I am not exactly an imposing figure. I am a 22 year old, 5’10, 185 pound, baby-faced white boy. People often comment on how nice and sweet I look. I guess strangers look at me and think of me as the kind of person who will get out of the way and not make a fuss about it…and they are right. But when I lived in China for 5 months, I found myself acting completely different. I was bigger than most people there and I stood out because I was a foreigner. It started without me even meaning for it to happen, I just began to experience the sea of people parting for me wherever I went. Soon I grew to expect it and walked with way more confidence. It helped that being a decent looking foreigner made me an automatic celebrity and girls were always smiling at me, asking to take photos with me, or for my contact info. Most Asian women really don’t do much for me, but it was a confidence boost nonetheless.

Then I got back to the States and I almost immediately fell back into my old habits of getting out of the way of those I deemed more powerful or worthy than I. It is funny because if I see someone walking towards me who I don’t see as a threat or as “worthy”, I will not budge from my path…I would never consider myself a bully who picks on those weaker than myself…but I guess that is part of my perceived position in the social hierarchy.

I have to assume that how I look at other people is how they look at me. I was tired of looking like an easy target so I have been weight training and bulking up for the last 3 months and have put on about 45 lbs. of muscle and some fat. I have a long way to go before I have the physique that I want, but I am on my way. Your article addresses physical attractiveness as playing a large role in peoples’ reactions to getting out of the way, but do you think a physically dominating appearance plays a large role as well? I am not sure how much of it is attitude and how much of it is appearance; one can find muscular giants who act like timid kittens or short and skinny guys who people just seem to know not to mess with.

Sometimes, instead of completely moving out of their way, I will do the body twist–you know the one where you roll your shoulder back and move your body almost sideways and the other person is supposed to do the same. It allows both people to have some “power” because the feet continue to move without changing course, but a collision is avoided. Sometimes though you find people who aren’t even willing to slightly move their shoulder.

I am wondering if you can give me some pointers as to what to say or do to men and women who do this and confront you afterwards? Should I just continue walking or what? I may not always act like it, but I do know that no one else has anymore of a right to be on the sidewalk than I do and I shouldn’t have to make way for them.

This guy takes it to extremes, but this is exactly what came to mind after I read your article http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lyu1KKwC74

This is my first time posting here, but I have been reading your articles for several months and I feel like you are speaking right to me 85% of the time. I really enjoy this site and am thankful for the work you put into it. I know I wrote a novel, but I would really appreciate it if you could address my comments.

Ariel says:

If someone refuses to get out of the way .. you can ask him `did you also just read Eric’s article?’ :-)

Eric Disco says:

Hi Alfredo,

This has nothing to do with your size or your look and everything to do with how you carry yourself. Like I said, guys who are way, way bigger than me always get out of the way.

Try this:

1. Find a rather wide sidewalk at a somewhat busy time of day. Not super busy like rush hour, but busy enough that there will be at least a few people walking toward you in your path.

2. Find a position on the sidewalk that’s to the right (if you’re in the U.S., maybe Britain is opposite).

3. Start walking along the sidewalk as slowly as you can possibly walk while still walking normal. Almost everyone should be walking faster than you.

4. Keep walking in a straight line, using the sidewalk as your guide. Often there will be breaks in the sidewalk you can use to guide you. Do not change direction unless you come to a stationary object, like a standing person or some other object.

5. Whenever you feel compelled to change directions, simply stop walking.

If you walk extremely slowly, people will naturally go around you from both the front and behind because they want to go faster than you. If someone is coming at you from the front, they will be walking faster than you. This means they are compelled to go around you.

Once you try this out, you will notice what I’m talking about. I would be surprised if someone did not get out of your way.

I am wondering if you can give me some pointers as to what to say or do to men and women who do this and confront you afterwards?

No one has ever confronted me. I’ve never had someone confront me doing this, ever. I’ve never even had someone say something mean in passing. If someone did end up walking into you when you’re going that slowly, it would end up being their fault, not yours. You can’t be expected to leap out of someone’s way when they are walking toward you faster than you are walking toward them.

Just to have something though, if you want, you could say something like, “My apologies, I wasn’t looking where I was going.” But I would be very surprised if anyone confronted you.
Eric

Steve says:

I think the majority of americans have no walking etiquette.

I walk everyday for exersize in SFLA and what for the most part you stay in your lane. If walking in pairs, the inner person slows to fall behind the other if confronting another group. When walking with your woman you giver her the lead with your hand on her back, then resume back to side by side.

I have seen rude pairs who do not follow this and I keep walking and shoulder check the ahole who should fall behind. I am 6′ 2″ and then look back as they are shocked and tell them, “fall back learn walking etiquette”. I especially do this when a guy is with his girl and fails to fall back. He looks shocked when I check him, I know what shes thinking (my man has no class, this guy is not afraid).

You will notice that most older people who were raised properly follow this etiquette, while the younger and minorities think they own the sidewalk. They have no class, are rude and inconsiderate. I will split their group right in the middle.

If confronting a woman, in a tight situation, my presense is poltite and considerate, and I will turn sideways and wait for a woman while looking at her straight in the eye.

Bruce says:

Thanks for the tips, Eric. I guess I seem to run into more assholes than most people. It is ridiculous for a fight to start from something as mundane as a shoulder check, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened around here where I live (Miami).

I will make a conscious decision to fight the urge to move aside and do what you suggested.

Lee says:

When I’m walking, I probably apologize way more than I should, both to men and to women. I think I’m compensating for a youth in which I got into five fights every day (and none in the last 18 years or so – none outside the ring, that is). However, reading these posts, I have to make an observation. It is very rare that the consequences of an approach or the consequences of standing your ground when walking on the sidewalk will result in the threat of a fight. It is even more rare that a simple apology won’t get you out of it. “Hey, I’m so sorry. I don’t know where my head is.” What I’m noticing is that guys who are struggling a bit with game way overestimate their chances of getting into a fight over a failed approach just as they overestimate their chances of getting into a fight walking on a sidewalk. It shows how much social conditioning is part of the fear of approaching women. The threat of death or bodily injury was the consequence of a bad approach… about 500 years ago! Today, when the boyfriend comes back and sees you talking to his girlfriend, 99.99% the worst outcome is that she rolls her eyes and they both turn their back to you. What is happening is that these fears are built into the physical structure of our brains. They are not just social conditioning. They are part of our evolutionary psychology, and that’s why they are still there in a world that has changed so much. The good news is that the men who have learned to overcome these fears have a tremendous advantage over men who haven’t. That’s why game works, because 500 years ago, only high status men – noblemen, kings, and men with personal armies – had the balls to approach.

Ken Meyer says:

Hi Eric,

this has been my ruleset for quite some time now, and it works.

However, I have got a bigger challenge: groups. I live in the center of Munich, Germany. There`s a big square I often visit to ; it is called Marienplatz. Invariably, whereever I stand , sooner or later a tourist group will start to gather around me and cover me kind of like I had their football. That`s how it feels. It seems always like as a group they assign themselves the right to run over me, as if they had more rights to be where I was first. I normally don`t walk away, but how do I assert free space around me? May be you guys have some ideas how to cope.

TP says:

Eric, I enjoy your blog but this article really is not important or necessary.

Lee says:

@TP I think you’re taking this article too literally. The insight here is not an algorithm for walking around town. The insight is that most men have a fear of embarrassment and punishment simply for doing what they have every right to do – take up space. That’s a pretty powerful piece of insight and very much related to confidence with women.

betatopua says:

Interesting article. I’ve come to realise that it is the small things we do often (like walking down the sidewalk) that are the biggest indicators of our own self worth.

I have noticed that the more confident I feel the less inclined I am to move out of people’s way, and visa versa.

Would you also do this when walking around in a club full of drunk people, or is that too risky?

Eric Disco says:

Would you also do this when walking around in a club full of drunk people, or is that too risky?

If you’re in a crowded club and you walk with your shoulders squared, unwilling to move, you will come across as confrontational. This differs from a sidewalk in that there really is no where else to walk.

In a very crowded club, I would turn my body if people wanted to get by, or stop my walking. But I wouldn’t change my walking direction unless there was someone standing still in front of me.

Eric

GW says:

I actually started modifying my behavior this way some time ago, it’s nice to see it reinforced here. It reminds me of an incident a little while ago.

I was walking alone back to BART from a Giants game and closed in on a group of about 4-6, half girls and half guys. I stayed to the right side of the sidewalk as much as I could, but resolved to not step out into the street. I lightly bumped shoulders with one of the girls, not on purpose, but because she was talking to the group and not watching where she was going.

One of the guys turns and says, “Watch yourself buddy.”
Me: “Hey, that’s not my bad.”
He responded with another bland challenge, I forget exactly what.
Somehow, I come back with an emphatic “Yeah, well FUCK you.” No one called my bluff and they continued on their way.

I should explain I’m not confrontational, never been in a fight, and am an average 5’9″. (Some liquid courage may have helped). I just didn’t like the guy trying to show off for the girls at my expense. They could have obviously destroyed me, but I don’t think they were ready to go that far.

After typing this out, I guess there’s not a great lesson here. I just want to agree that it feels good to stand up for yourself, even in small ways.

JasFilie says:

Hi Eric,
Quality writing as usual! I think this probably speaks to a lot of guys. On a more fundamental level however this idea presents a problem. Sure, other people do NOT have more right than you and I do to be on the sidewalk. But does that mean we DO have more right to be walking there? I would say everyone has an equal right to walk the sidewalk, wouldn’t you agree?

I’m not saying this to be trolling, confrontational or walk with my shoulders squared so to speak, but I was hoping you might have a more nuanced solution to this underlying problem. Because if you and I have the same right to be in this world, then why should you move out of my way and not the other way around?

A solution might be the mutual last second shoulder turn. But then again that doesn’t really work on groups usually.

Even though I subscribe to what I previously said, I would probably not go out of my way for a pretty girl (especially when we’ve made eye contact) just to see if I can make her walk around me just by using (non-aggressive of course) body language. It’s just too much fun to play with that kinda thing:p

Cheers!

Remy says:

Nice conclusion!

christine.vereecken says:

I see you have posted my art on your blog
I did not give my autorization for this
can you please contact me regarding to this
thanks, crayonmaniac

Lenny says:

Man oh man is this is a subject that is on my mind a lot. I don’t even know where to start. As a New Yorker, not a day goes by where I don’t find myself involved in these little games of pedestrian chicken. It’s simply amazing how no one, and I mean NO ONE, will move out of the way, and a few of them will even actively and deliberately try to get in your way, such as the passive aggressive types. Just the other day I was walking down a very broad sidewalk, with enough space for probably 6 people to walk abreast, and I was on a collision course with some 30-ish looking woman drinking a Starbucks and who’s trying to look more absorbed in her phone than she really is. She’s looking straight ahead, so I’m sure she sees me. I deliberately moved out of the way to the other side of the sidewalk, which I’m also sure she noticed. But what does she do? She looks down at her cell phone, starts zig zagging, looking up here and there, and eventually straightens into a diagonal heading straight for me. Out of a sense of kindness and noblisse oblige, I moved out of the way the first time, giving her the benefit of the doubt that she didn’t have any bad intentions. Someone has to move out of the way, and I really don’t mind being the one to do it as long as I don’t feel the other person is deliberately trying to challenge me or pull a fast one on me. But it was quite obvious what she was doing this time, and so I held my ground, straightened up, and braced myself for the collision. Sure enough, we bumped shoulders. I’m 6’0, solid 190 lbs. She had to be about 5’6, 130 lbs. Guess who felt the impact more? Her response? “Excuse yourself,” in a really sassy, riot grrrl tone. I responded politely and logically, saying, “Actually, you’re the one who walked into me.” She then said, “No, buddy, who the fuck are you that I would even notice you.” Her response was so abrasive that I wasn’t even offended, I just chuckled and walked away. If she were more attractive, I would have even tried to game her. But why bother. The sad thing is that I’m sure she didn’t take away any lesson from the encounter. She probably just patted herself on the back for her “no-nonsense, take no shit attitude,” and then told all her friends about what happened so that they could further validate what a no-nonsense-take-no-shit-from-no-one badass she is.

When two men are involved in a game of pedestrian chicken, physical dominance is the main factor determining who moves out of whose way. The bigger guy might move out of the way, but it’s more out of a sense of nobility and politeness rather than fear, so for all you little guys who think your puffing out your chest and squaring your shoulders is making a difference, don’t kid yourselves. This is one thing I definitely would not suggest you “fake it until you make it” or “act as if,” because if you are not ready for a real fight, you’re going to get your ass kicked, especially if you are in more ghetto neighborhoods. You’re better off just getting out of the way as soon as you realize you are on a collision course and looking busy or looking at your cell phone or looking deep in thought or looking happy or whatever, at least that way you don’t look like a little man with something to prove to himself, and you know what, you might be surprised, because more often than not, when the other person sees you move, they will, in many cases, make an exaggerated effort to move, too, just to let you know they mean no harm, and in that way, both your egos and dignities are preserved. And if you are the bigger one and see you see a smaller man walking toward you who doesn’t look like he’s going to budge, just move to the side a little bit, secure in the knowledge that he was probably shitting bricks on the inside. It’s the Golden Rule—treat others as you would like to be treated. Dominance is relative—you might be bigger than some guys, but there is always someone out there bigger than you.

When playing the game with girls, the same rules that hold for men hold for women—as the stronger one, you should move, or, if the street is very narrow, shift your body (with your back facing her, as opposed to concaving your body) a little bit to make it easier for the two of you to pass each other, and if she doesn’t shift her body a little, so be it, just bump into her. She ain’t royalty that you have to throw yourself in front of a train for her.

Eric Disco says:

This has been resolved. I spoke to Christine and authorization was given.

I see you have posted my art on your blog. I did not give my autorization for this can you please contact me regarding to this, thanks, crayonmaniac

Eric

argentin says:

I realized this last winter, when sidewalks were full of snow, and paths were formed for just 1 person at a time to walk on
When someone came from the front, I would always move aside, getting into the big snow, to let them pass
I did this a couple of times until I woke up and said, hey wtf, why do I always move out of the way?Why don’t THEY let me pass?
I realized I would start moving a few meters ahead, so they would understand I was the one moving, so they would keep walking ahead.
I started practicing not moving out of the way, and it felt weird in the beginning, but is’ a great feeling letting people know you are there, and holding your ground
Great article!

Geoff says:

I have noticed this countless times, only yesterday a guy moved from one side of the pavement to my side. I brushed pst him then I met him on my return journey and he started to do exact same thing moved to my side!!! I had my eye on him the entire time so he moved and walked past me, eyeballing me lol. I also like to stop and look the other way and put my hand to my head sort of scratching it wondering where i am kinda way but really my elbow is pointing straight for they’re nose lol kinda makes them move. Worst I seen though was a woman on crutches who went all the way over from her side of the kerb to mine just to get in my way….that must have took super effot to look like a turd.

Derrick says:

I attended advising day at the local state school, and while I had nothing to do during lunch I was walking down the sidewalk. I decided to walk on the left against traffic, and I held my position almost the whole time.

It really is an effective dominance tell, although next time I’ll just walk on my side. I really like the idea of just stopping if the person doesn’t immediately move. I just don’t like being an ass too much, so I won’t walk in the wrong direction.

Danny says:

Honestly, I kind of wondered how effective this would be, So earlier tonight I decided to take the long way through the centre of town to go the the chip shop, I did exactly what is described and to my amazement every single person/s moved out of my way, I’m only 5″7 and guys much bigger than me would change their path to avoid walking into me if i started to slow down.

aussiegonzo says:

Good effective advice, my advice is don’t do this trick when you are in subways in Japan… I tried it , ended inside the going to my wrong direction… cheers

Derric says:

What do you think of half stepping. I always half step to the side excepting people to do the same but they keep on walking straight like they don’t notice you coming. Bunch of animals so worried about their social standing.

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