DISCLAIMER: This post does not apply to the severely visually impaired, who probably have developed compensatory superpowers.
When I was a very young woman, I had a super-power. I could walk into any public space, a bar, a restaurant, a park…and if I saw someone I wanted to sleep with, all I had to do was make eye-contact and we were off to the races.
That’s not a boast. Comedian Carol Leifer once aptly observed: “If you wanna see a naked man, ask him!”
This was the late 70s. Sluttiness was in and AIDS was not yet a thing.
But the ability to make eye contact is still a superpower. Perhaps that’s why many of us avoid it. With great power comes great responsibility. Eye contact can be perceived as a challenge in the animal kingdom. That’s why you shouldn’t lock eyes with a pitbull.
It can also be a challenge for people with ADHD and other neurodivergent issues.
The thing is, if you relate to making eye contact being a challenge, consider making it a skill worth consciously developing.
For one thing, it helps with picking up social cues. If you’re monologuing and don’t notice the other person’s face screaming ‘uh…I gotta go’ you can gain the rep of being the type of poor soul whose a must-to-avoid.
I’ve been struck by how often I come across this feature in older adults who live alone. Perhaps it’s lonliness desperately purging itself on an audience, or perhaps being someone who seems to exhibit no unexpressed thoughts caused that loneliness. Whatever the chicken-or-the-egg issue is, it’s a problem that I believe a little eye contact could help resolve in many cases.
Eye contact requires an ability to focus, which is why it’s worth practicing. If you undertake it, eye contact will strengthen your ability to be present, which allows you to take in what’s actually going on in the room… including what other people are saying, doing or feeling.
So screw your courage to the sticking point, and start looking people in the eye.