When I realised how much I struggled with eye-contact, about six years-ago, it has been a favourite experiment of mine to see how well other people are doing. The results, of my unmoderated experiment, are not good. Most people seem to have lost the ability to properly hold another’s gaze.
The sad thing is, we are not only telling others that we are scared about life, when we fail to make warm non-intrusive eye-contact, we are also telling our own brains and bodies the same thing. Which puts us into a nasty feedback loop. ( I *know* fascinating stuff; all will be revealed in the tantrum book. I can’t wait!)
The most interesting, for me, is when parents fail to make eye-contact with their children. Those children are always timid and/or violent as a result. They actually have no choice in the matter. Which explains a lot about cultures where eye-contact between superiors and subordinates is not permitted!
Children who are forced to make eye-contact have to become Tough Guys or Mean Girls. They have had to block the sensations of discomfort from intrusive eye-contact. They still feel threatened, but they refuse to accept they are threatened. This is also common amongst sassy, perfectionist, over-achievers.
The boys have been begging me for a while to buy some chocy biscuits for some road workers we have been passing for the last few months. We finally delivered them today. You could see the changes of emotion clearly on the faces of the men, from “What is that stupid b***t doing parking there? to “What the f**k are those kids doing?” to absolute delight when the boys handed them the biscuits. Their backs straightened and they then made almost continuous warm eye-contact with both the boys and I (still in the car).
This is not just any old random act of kindness (which are also very cool). This was us showing them we had seen their hard work, often in difficult conditions, in horrible weather and for long hours. We had seen them.
I use this strategy with the boys if we’re having a bit of a dodgey time: I stop, aim my eyes at their faces (often they can’t make eye-contact to begin with) and just wait. When they can make eye-contact I say something like, “Oh there you are darling. I missed you.” They almost always laugh (stress release) and/or spontaneously hug me (relief). Then we have a very quiet conversation and things go much more smoothly after that.
Eye-contact is the most powerful magic we have access to. Use it wisely. Use it today.
Have you seen me? A comment or smiley face would tell me you have.