It’s something commonplace, and yet few things are as intimate as eye contact. We connect with each other through our eyes even before we’ve spoken a word. Recently, I saw a traffic sign that read: ‘make eye contact with another driver.’
I taught in a classroom for a few years and experienced that teaching stands or falls with eye contact. If you don’t establish a connection through your eyes with students, you can’t get very far. This connection can be a friendly gaze, but it can also be a stern look when addressing a student’s inappropriate behavior. A stern look is the first step on the escalation ladder.
People who fall in love also start by exchanging glances; enamored glances. In short, our eye contact almost always precedes the interaction that follows.
Recently, I heard a story about a lady. She had listed a summer jacket on Marktplaats (a Dutch online marketplace). She received a response from a potential buyer through the internet. Mailing the jacket seemed like too much hassle for her, but it turned out the buyer lived in the same city, even in the same neighborhood. The man wanted to pick it up and, in her opinion, seemed a bit clumsy. He planned to come by tram, and they would meet at the tram stop. That’s what they did. He alighted from the tram, but at the opposite stop from where she expected. However, their eye contact ensured they found each other. The jacket was handed over, the money was paid, and the man took the next tram back home. It was their searching glances that led the buyer and seller to each other.
A friendly gaze works wonders. An angry glare strikes us to the core. So, eye contact isn’t just a mere ‘add-on.’ While it may seem intangible, it’s incredibly influential.