Have you ever wandered down the street and glanced over at a person that is, say, across the street, and you see them look toward you and you Know they are looking right in to your eyes? It seems weird we get a sense that someone is looking at us at the exact moment we look at them, too. This happens usually when we don’t want to be noticed, and all of a sudden people are noticing us whenever we look their way. How delightful!
But seriously, it can be kind of eerie when we look at someone from a distance and we can feel them look around and lock on to our gaze. It does something. Registers a ‘locked on target’ message to our brain. How did they do that? Or maybe we felt someone looking our way, and we turned and blam-o, there was someone looking at us! Eerie!
The energies our brain gives off are so much a mystery to us, but I know it does it. We are connected on some level that is beyond the cognitive.
I was very uncomfortable the first time someone would look in my eyes. It was an invasion of sorts to me. I felt very vulnerable when anyone did it. This was when I was a child, but the feeling was still with me into adulthood. I slowly started to get over this only recently, probably after I started speaking in a Toastmasters club. In that, they teach you to look at people around the crowd, your fellow members, and seek their eyes. I found that if I held a moment with them just enough to register a ‘moment’, an ‘emotion’ then I would have made a connection.
For some people it is a register of respect to look them in the eyes. To others, and perhaps in other countries with other traditions, I can imagine it registers the opposite, or has an entirely different meaning.
When I was a youngster I would watch television with the volume very low so I would not disturb my parents in the early morning. As I did this, I would become more and more capable with lip reading. Naturally, as I grew up, I would read lips, or at least look at them, more than the eyes, go get what I considered a much greater sense of the emotion of the speaker, than I ever could with the eyes.
People would say, “the eyes are the window to the soul”, but to me they were much less a window and more of a flat painting. The mouth, however, held so many nuances that I could tell if you were smiling even minutely, were sarcastic, if you were angry before you spoke, if your trembling lips meant you were striving to hold back an emotion. This I could never grasp from the eyes.
I know that when I became comfortable with speaking, and more confident in my own self, I also felt more comfortable meeting another person’s gaze. I used to think it was so personal, but I grew to understand, at least in our western culture, that it can have a respectful, serious, and even professional tone.
I began to experiment with it, and it became just another body language tool to use in communicating with others.
I recall when I first met my current girlfriend that she commented on how I always looked in to her eyes when she was speaking. I can appreciate that not all women may experience that when a male is listening to them, so I took it as a compliment!
When you can get close to someone to peer in to their eyes in a non creepy way, it is an amazing instrument. They eyes must be one of the most intricate facets of our body! To be able to focus, register more or less light requirements, protected by eyebrows, squinting, eyelashes, and be the window that imparts images, vast images to our brain, what a wondrous device!
It is quite interesting, as I think about how important the eyes are in communicating, at how my notions of what it meant influenced how I communicated. I wonder how many other notions I continue to hold to this day about my beliefs in how I communicate to others.
Our actions are a direct result of our beliefs, agreements, experiences, and lessons. To become aware of different aspects of what we may do unconsciously is a gift! I strive to become more aware of differing aspects of my behaviour whenever I can witness them.
How do you feel about eye contact? It is a deeply personal affectation for you, or do you believe that it is a form of respectful communication? Did you have any preconceived notions about it when you were young that you have since changed? I remember this picture to the left and have for many years. It is the iconic Time Life photo that many people saw. It sticks with you!
I know communication styles vary all over the world, and even within our western culture, it varies from person to person. A strange thing this body language, facial expression stuff. I bet if you got really good at it, you could read people better than they could speak their emotions to you.
There’s a TV show about that, right?
It’s not something that we are taught in school. We get tidbits in movies and from talking to other people and in books, but to actually put a planned expression in place whilst speaking is a skill. I like to say that the natural emotions, happiness, joy and excitement don’t need any rehearsing. Those are the most contagious I think!
So, do you prefer to watch: the mouth, or are you an eye talker? As an inspiration to others, I try to look people in the eyes as much as possible, and ensure I offer a polite, yet warm and inviting facial expression, usually with a smile to anyone new that I come in to contact with. But, as with all things human, its hard to do all the time.
Keeping detached from the outcome, emotionally secure, engaged, but not crossing a personal boundary, it seems rather an art form at times than a straight forward skill. But, what i do know, is that we could all do with a little practice, especially when confronted by an emotionally engaging topic.
I know that I really admire those people that can keep their cool at all times, even when I might get emotionally involved in a discussion. They are one of those heroes we never hear about and I’d like to see more of those people in the world.