The penalty of not looking into the eyes of the person you are clinking glasses with during a toast is 7 years of bad sex. Yep. Got that?! In France and Germany it’s a superstition that forces people to look into each other’s eyes. My old boss had told us it was tradition to look not at the glass, but at the person you were cheering with. (He had left out the bad sex bit.) So my old colleagues and I would give each other glaring and ridiculous glances when toasting. It became an inside joke. But we always looked at each other. (And drank a lot of wine.) Yet in society as a whole, we can’t even look at each other anymore. How many people do you really SEE on a daily basis?
We live in a social world. Most people are looking at their phones while doing normal activities – this is not new. But it’s creating a pet peeve for me and a larger societal problem as a whole. Because we don’t look at each other anymore, the actual act of looking someone in the eyes can feel very raw and personal, almost intimate. And I’m noticing people do it less and less.
I had two recent eye contact situations occur at all places – church. We go to a friendly and open church. We go (almost) every week and see the same people in our same section at church. Yet I’m amazed at the – women especially – who won’t look at me when I’m looking at them. My husband joked with me that it’s because not everyone likes me, which I know Is Not True.
The one that gets me the most is a certain lady that I see EVERY WEEK. I’ve spoken to her a few times. I’ve watched her children in the nursery. Yet, every time I pass her she pretends to look straight ahead, enthralled with mass. Or looks at her kids. Like I’m the homeless woman on the corner holding a sign. Really?! (And she’s not connected with me on Facebook or LinkedIn so she won’t really see this blog post. MN passive aggressive right here!) Or I’ll see people at the gym or at Target or at the park and instead of just saying, “hi”, they avoid eye contact. Are we afraid of that personal connection when looking at each other? Is it a confidence issue? Am I really that beautiful and intimidating that people think my beauty will blind them?
The other situation at church happened this past weekend. My friends came and sat in front of me with their 10 month old daughter. This little girl was standing up and grinning at everyone. She looked as many people in the eye as she could, like she was there to make us happy. And happy we were. She caused all of us to look at each other and smile and acknowledge this little cutie. And after a sleepless night and not feeling the best, I couldn’t help but feel a little energized by her smile. This little girl made a dozen people feel better by eye contact. Pretty radical, right?
Two weeks ago I had attended a women’s get-together and networking event hosted by Beautiful Chaos. Two women run an interior design company, but are also motivated to connect women to each other in a personal way, not with a phone or social media. And Sarah, one of the hosts, was very passionate about this same issue. We need to touch and see and really BE with others to really feel connections and grow. And you could tell by the reactions of the 25 women in the room that they also missed the personal connection.
So what can we do? I need to work on looking my kids and husband in the eye more often instead of at my to-do list or computer. We all can work on something but today, maybe look the barista in the eye when he hands you your coffee. Smile at the person who opened the door for you. Look at your assistant when she tells you that difficult client is on line 1. Eye contact makes us all feel like we are connected to each other, and its the easiest thing we can do to make another person feel special.