Recently, my husband and I got into a disagreement over something (I can’t even remember what it was about!). I stated my points, he stated his. And then, he told me…
…when I feel uncomfortable in a conversation, I look away and lose eye contact. I thought…what?! In our over 25 years together, I had no idea I did that. I am a stickler for eye contact in conversations and actively teach my kids to make eye contact with everyone they speak to. So I was completely unaware I did that.
But when he told me, it made complete sense.
Why would I want to look at someone during a disagreement? With someone who thinks I’m wrong in that moment? Ha!
But also, it’s a thing that I do want to work on, as eye contact to me is very important for connecting with someone on any level and to make them feel like they are being heard. I would find it off-putting to have a conversation with a friend, co-worker, or partner when they are not looking at me and seem off in the distance.
Do you notice your eye contact changes when you’re mood changes? I can’t be the only one, right?
This is so interesting!! I was just having a conversation with a friend about eye contact. Her daughter is neuro divergent and really can’t comfortably make eye contact. It really made me rethink the focus our family puts in eye contact!
I think it’s something that we all work on…as kids and adults. Of course, if someone has a condition that makes it extra hard, that’s a different case!
Yes!!! This comment is so important- it’s not super easy for everyone to make eye contact. And it’s not a small number of people who are Neuro divergent. So it’s something that is emphasized in our culture that 10% of the population really can’t do is interesting in of itself.
You are definitely not alone. My partner and I had a disagreement a couple of weeks ago and he said “do you want to look away so you can tell me what you need to” 🙄 I try to give full eye contact when he’s speaking to me and when I apologize but sometimes it’s easier for me to look away when I’m saying my points.
Yes, I think it’s what we are comfortable with and also cultural, too.
I can totally see this happening. Eye contact makes me feel uncomfortable so I’ve had to make a point of doing it. My parents never instilled it in us because in many Asian cultures it’s considered impolite…too aggressive or a sign of anger. I’m curious what your parents thought
Yes, I think for me it’s cultural for me, too. I don’t think I ever realized I did it but likely learned indirectly.
That’s very interesting!
My mother was a teacher for 30 years. Over the course of her career, she taught students from many different cultures. One of the things that she learned was that eye contact is actually disrespectful in some cultures, especially for children to make eye contact with adults. There are “eye-to-eye” cultures and “skin-to-skin” cultures where the idea of personal space is much less important and people are generally more comfortable with a lot more physical touch. So she tried to teach her students that eye contact was important in school, but she also was understanding that it was very uncomfortable and difficult for them to switch this on and off.
Yes, there is a lot to unpack there culturally, and I am sure this had some affect on me as well without realizing it!