I’ve always taken pride in being a good conversationalist, in being someone who listens well and truly engages with my respective conversational partner. As a Recruiter, I have kind of built my career upon the ability to communicate well and connect to people. The ability to put people at ease and create a platform for honest interaction by focusing on; the ebb and flow of conversation, how to make the other person feel important and listened to, when to speak, how to steer the conversation and so on.
Eye contact when interacting with other people is huge, and something I’ve always thought I did well. But I recently realised that I often don’t, or rather; when I am doing so, I am doing so superficially.
What I’ve often been doing is taking in their whole being, and all elements of their presentation rather than looking into their eyes, and on some levels that’s okay – actual sustained eye contact is actually very rare. It actually weirds people out, and it’s a shame it does.
When we actually engage with one another in this way, we actually learn so much more. Our souls are laid bare.
I was lucky enough to have this brought into 20/20 vision at a meditation event I attended recently. A workshop as part of the Just Breathe series – an organisation I am proud to support and work with. The exercise was called quite simply; ‘eye gazing’.
It goes a little like this:
- You sit in front of someone with your knees touching, either cross legged or sitting on a chair
- You look down and close your eyes
- Big inhale
- Look up and open them
- Look into each others eyes for 4 minutes
- One person looks down and closes eyes, the other gives feedback on the experience
- Then switch, that person closes their eyes, so the other person can feedback
At first, when you realise what you are about to do, you feel seriously awkward. Four minutes becomes a lifetime, and you wonder if you’ll actually be able to keep your eyes focused on another persons for that long (and keep a straight face).
Newsflash; you can.
And when you do, it’s seriously beautiful.
Around the room different things occurred. Some of the closest couples found the exercise the most awkward. You could hear the occasional giggle, or awkward sound.
For me with my companion, someone I’ve met before but don’t know well at all, the awkwardness just melted away. Our differences disappeared. It was as if I could see the very essence of their soul; their hopes, their dreams, their fears. I experienced a rush of love; pure, honest genuine affection. An incredible shift took place within me, like a shift to openness. Two equals, seeing the beauty of one another’s souls; humanity at its best.
If you can let go of your awkwardness and embrace something a little different, I urge you to give this simple exercise a try.
Of course, practical life means I don’t now just stare for four minutes into the eyes of every person I meet, but it’s provided me with a greater warmth in me towards people in general, and makes me consider them on a deeper, and much more human level.
The eyes can tell you so much about the quality of interaction you are having; the level of engagement of your audience, how comfortable the person is, whether the person is doing what they want to do.
I’ve experienced this in relationships before, where a partner is unable to meet your gaze and hold it, or looks away uncomfortably even for something as intimate as a kiss. In that context, the eyes could indeed be conveying a bigger story. One of disconnection, or perhaps the avoidance of really being ‘seen’. It’s worth paying closer attention to your own eyes, and what, in their discomfort, they might be telling you.
Moving forward, regardless of the context of the interaction, my aim moving forward is to meet people with love and to make a genuine attempt to connect sincerely to whoever I am interacting with.