August 06, 2014

Why Is Eye Contact Important To You?

Why is eye contact important to you?
I'm not asking to be facetious, but to understand. At the same time, it's a question I think everyone should ask themselves. 

We know many studies have shown eye contact between humans is a way we try to understand the intentions of a person. We link eye contact to trustworthiness. When we want to know if someone is lying, we say, "look me in the eye and answer me!" We see romantic moments on TV, where people stare longingly into each other's eyes, and we consider those who don't hold our gaze to have the worst intentions. 

Have you always been right with your assumptions? Has someone ever looked you right in the eyes and lied to you? Did you fall for it because they looked you in the eyes? 

I'm going to ask you to let those ideas go for a bit. I'm going to ask you to consider a different way of being. 

eye from on
There are those of us who very rarely lie. You'll know us because when we talk we have no filter. If we are asked an opinion, we speak it freely, without any awareness of how you might hear it or feel. When we cannot answer or don't know how, rather than lie, we often go mute. If you keep asking us questions, we're even more likely to shut down. 

We are the same people who rarely make eye contact. You think we aren't listening or paying attention. You think we're not interested. You don't trust us because we look down at the floor. If those are your beliefs, you're putting a whole lot of negative ideas onto people who, through no fault of their own, simply cannot make eye contact easily.

The sad part is because of that little detail (or at least I consider it a little detail), we are routinely excluded. We are misunderstood. The irony is that often, if I cannot look at you when you talk, it's because I really want to hear what is being said. I really want to hear every word and concentrate. It is fascinating enough to me that I want to understand. And yet, I am accused of not listening. 

Think about the discomfort you are demanding from someone else and try to have some empathy. Think about what you are really asking of someone. Think about the assumptions you make. Are you able to take a good look at yourself?

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