What’s the deal with eye contact anyway? Why are people so afraid of it and why do some people think making eye contact is the end of the world?
I must admit that I’ve had periods in my life where eye contact has been really difficult. And sometimes I still don’t like looking people in the eye for too long. I remember I had a teacher at high school that once brought up the subject. One of the best teachers I’ve had, by the way. He said that too little eye contact unsettles people, just as too much does. We need to find that balance. Is it mechanical? Do we need to learn how much eye contact is enough? Or is pure instinct?
Perhaps it’s all to do with the social game we’re all playing – learning how to refine our box of skills?
One thing that bothers me a lot is why some people find it hard to make eye contact, especially in a situation where you know both of you have seen each other. I mean, if I see someone I half know on the street, why not make eye contact and say hi and keep walking? You don’t have to stop and talk just because you acknowledge one another?! The past few years I’ve made a point of doing just that. I say hi and keep walking. I don’t stop to talk. Perhaps some people find it rude, or perhaps a little strange. But I would rather be rude and honest than dishonest and stuck in a boring conversation.
I bumped into an old friend a few months ago. I did as I usually do. I made eye contact, said hi and kept walking; but he slowed down and asked me where I live now. The obvious dead-end question. Still walking, I told him where I live, and said, “nice to see you, bye!” Everything about his body language told me anyway that he didn’t actually care where I live. But why do people still feel obliged to talk just because you see someone you know? Do people genuinely have no confidence to just leave it at hi? Or does eye contact imply booking an around-the-world trip together?
People find it easier to avoid eye contact just to get out of a potential dead-end conversation – of the cold weather or yesterdays cheap avocados. Why can’t people make eye contact and have the confidence to keep walking, and not stop to talk? Say hi, and keep walking. And by doing that, you won’t seem like a petty person of the two. (Because you know that both of you have seen each other even though you pretend you haven’t). If you take the initiative to do that, you will always be the confident one in a situation – and the other one will have to live with being the petty person by pretending to not see you. Say hi, look away and keep walking. Stay confident. Don’t waste time.
Song of the day: Roosevelt – Take me back