Look Me In the Eye–On the Other Hand, Don’t

One of the most basic things I’ve always tried to teach my kids is to make eye contact when you are speaking to someone. It’s simple and you’d think it would be something you don’t have to teach. Yet it was painful for my son Sam at some points in his young life to look at the person he’s talking to. The same with one of my former employees–he’d be spouting off about this and that and looking everywhere but in their eyes. I could see the listener looking, waiting to make eye contact, but he’d torture them with glances down, around and over, and finally, agonizingly, he’d look at them.

I read a review of last weeks’ presidential debate. The main point was how McCain never, ever looked into Obama’s eyes. He avoided eye contact, and it was painful and awkward to see.

Some people look into your eyes strongly, if rarely, so they can sort of make up for the lack of earlier contact. I had a boss once who really gave the steely eye, every so often, and it made you jump. I was going to hire a woman for the cafe but she was the opposite…she stared just a little bit too long into my eyes and it made ME want to look away. I thought it was me. Then I had her come back again for a second interview, and she did it again. Blazing right into me with that undending gaze, unshakable and frankly, unnerving. We never did hire her, and I think I made the right call.