I’ve worked in quite a few professions where making eye contact with guests is part of the job. However, there are few people that will actually make eye contact with you. When you do make eye contact with someone, they want to assume you like them and all. I also think that sometimes, it’s a lot easier to disregard your fellow man and do them wrong when you aren’t looking them in the eye.
What is is about when we feel unsure of ourselves that makes us not look people in the eye?
What are we afraid they’ll see if they do look at us directly?
There’s an old saying that says that “The eyes are the window to the soul.” I believe there is great truth in that. I know that there are times where if I was ashamed of something or knew I was wrong, I won’t look people in the eye. Maybe I was feeling self conscious and overwhelmed that day, and didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone… or I just wanted to be left alone that day. I’ve been especially guilty of avoiding eye contact with men that I’m fond of. It’s hard for me to subject myself to that level of vulnerability.
It seems that a lot of people just want to be left alone, which seems odd considering that social media is such a huge thing. Social media is all about connecting with other people; however, I must say, it’s not all that personal. The person isn’t there to look you right in the face, and in the eyes.
I was once in this play, and one of the directors had me do an exercise with the man with whom I was doing the majority of my scenes. We sat in chairs facing each other without touching, and looked directly into each other’s eyes for a period of time without looking away. Honestly, I thought I was pretty good with eye contact until I did that exercise. I didn’t realize how scary it really is to expose yourself like that. When you look into someone’s eyes, it’s like diving head first into a relationship. You put yourself on the line in a very similar way, and risk being rejected by the person with whom you’re exchanging eye contact. There’s no hiding anything when someone’s looking you in the eye.
After that, the scenes got better. That small exercise created connection, and it felt more organic and real versus reading lines on a page. After that exercise, I’ve been longing to do it with other people. I’ve exchanged eye contact with people briefly at times, and it always seems to startle them. I know I’ve been startled by it a few times. I guess no one expects to be looked in the eye anymore, or expects that level of vulnerability in a world where people are prideful and try to hide their shortcomings… and emotions.
We are human, and (gasp!) we’re emotional beings! We’re prone to fits of rage, angry outbursts, tears, grief, and sadness. It’s normal! Why hide that? I’m certain you won’t be scorned for it as much as you might think.
Dare to really look at someone… and let them look at you, too. Who knows if a true connection may not be forged? After all, we were made to be connected.