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Making Eye Contact

September 24th,2013

Blog Format

Lately I have been reflecting a lot on relationships and communication. It is a fact that relationships are built on communication, but having a good communication with others is not always easy to do, with some people communication may flow naturally, while with others it may be a total mess: filled with misunderstandings, frustrations, etc. Or it can be something in between.

eyecontact

Communication is the essence of human interaction and learning, and there are many ways to communicate aside from verbal language. We often get stuck in thinking that communication is based solely on our verbal exchanges, when it goes far beyond that. Every day we all emit and respond to nonverbal cues like behaviors, body language and more.

I have always been fascinated by body language, as I believe our bodies never lie, and there is a lot we can find out about a person if we pay attention to their body language: postures, facial expression, eye gaze, gestures, tone of voice, etc. What we express through our body is often more true and accurate than what we can express with words.

Today I would like to write specifically about eye contact, as I feel this is a really important element for good communication. There is no coincidence that the popular expression "Seeing Eye to Eye" means being in agreement with someone.

Human eyes are said to hold the key to the heart, and eye contact can relay our inner most intimate thoughts and emotions. So, in a way, making eye contact is very powerful as it allows us to truly see the other and be seeing by them, with no veils, no filters, no lies. The significance of eye contact vary widely between cultures, with religious and social differences often altering its meaning greatly, but deep down to our human essence, it is a powerful way to connect with others.

"The Eyes are the Windows of the Soul" Traditional Proverb

So why is it that most people find it so hard to make eye contact and sustain it for longer periods of time? Set aside cultural beliefs and customs, my guess is that we feel naked, we feel totally exposed when making full eye contact, therefore we may experience feelings of shame and fear. We surely find it much easier to make eye contact with a small child, because we know that there is no judgment and criticism in their minds, so we feel safe.

In fact, kids love and need to make eye contact, they demand it! My kids sometimes take my face in their hands when they are talking to me and tell me: mommy look at me, they need me to look at them in order to feel they have my attention, and they are so right!

We cannot lie with our eyes, at least not for long... like the popular expression: "Look at me and tell me the truth" tells, if we want to know the truth, we need to look at someone deep into their eyes and we will find out.

Not too long ago a friend of mine, who practices Kundalini yoga, shared her experience while doing a White Tantric Yoga retreat, which she found incredibly profound, transformative and powerful. I have not yet done one myself but it is definitely in my list of things to do! Apparently this group meditations are done in pairs and there is a lot of time spent making eye contact with a partner.

Interestingly today, my yoga teacher started our class by having us face our next-mat neighbor and basically look into each other's eyes for a few minutes, without saying a word. Our teacher was talking us through the importance of feeling connected to others and seeing how similar we are deep inside. I found this practice very powerful and beautiful, so it reminded me of my friend's White Tantric experience and of how difficult it is to maintain eye contact!

It seems that men have a harder time than women when it comes to making and holding eye contact, I don't like to generalize because there are many exceptions (in fact I know many), but it does make sense to me since men have been socially and culturally trained not to be in touch with their emotions and therefore they tend to be less connected to their bodies and feelings, and less inclined to open up to others in a deeper way. Here is an interesting article about men and making eye contact.

The level of human connection as well as the quality of social interactions greatly benefits from making eye contact. I feel like if we were able to see into each others eyes more often, if we would allow others to see us a little more deeply, we could only build stronger relationships, more truthful conversations and a deeper understanding of one another.

So today I just wanted to shed a light on the importance of making eye contact as a way of positively connecting with others. If you are a man or woman who finds it really hard to make eye contact, I invite you to explore the reasons why, maybe you can try to step out of your comfort zone and do it more and more, and see the results. There are many great resources and tips online to help you with it.

Have a good week!

 

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