One of the first things people usually notice about me is my confidence and my focused eye contact. I’m not afraid to talk to a stranger or smile at someone passing by. This hasn’t always been, in fact for a few years I lost this confident air. At some point, my eye contact went from easy, natural and welcoming to a quick glance and a dart away. I believe this happened because I was in a relationship. Not wanting to lead people on, I would of course acknowledge then look away. At least I’m pretty sure that’s when I began to not hold a gaze. One day pre-relationship, I was working at a jewelry store and while I was on the phone standing right in front me on his phone was Robert Downey, Jr! Aside from just being a handsome man to look at, RDJ and I locked eyes. We held that gaze through my phone conversation. Thankfully, he couldn’t read lips as I was trying to tell my phone mate to not hang up. I needed that call to continue so I had a reason to keep my gaze with RDJ. I mean it was like a total “eye f*ck” it was amazing! What moment, an experience. Yet, somewhere down the path of job changes, relationship ups and down and just figuring out what rocks for me, I lost the need, drive and comfortableness of making that deep connection with another human being.
Recently while in a work out session, my Personal Trainer observed the people around us do just that. Walk by and glance quickly and look away or not even see us at all. Too busy, too detached, too good for us, or whatever other reasons behind noncommittal eye connection. I asked PT if I did that. Did I just glance quick and look away as if there was something better to see? PT—one of the most honest people I know—said yes. “I train you several times a week. People watch your every move and you don’t even notice them. As if they don’t exist. You’re not in a relationship anymore you can take a look at those around you.”
Wow, brutal truth. I wasn’t as outgoing and welcoming as I thought. I started to playback some recent moments where I just walked by people. Not even noticing them. Whether I was staring at my phone or staring beyond them it didn’t matter. I wasn’t participating in life enough. Relationship or not people deserve to feel like they exist. You may think you’re just busy or shy or whatever. However, what comes off is your lack of desire to connect. You are too busy/good to acknowledge another human.
After our session, I went up the stairs to my office. About fifty feet in my eye line was a very good-looking gentleman. Someone I would have instantly noticed but not dared to make eye contact with because this guy was so good looking I was sure he wouldn’t take the time to notice me. Usually, I’d preemptively look away. But not this time. This time I was going to compel myself to make the eye contact. I held his gaze until he was no longer on the trajectory to my office. Oh yes, and I added a little smile. It made it easier!
Arriving at my office, I sat down and told myself it wasn’t that hard. It actually felt pretty good. In fact, since he didn’t dart his eyes away it was fun. It put a kick in my step. If he had looked away, honestly it wouldn’t have mattered. I was on a mission to make myself a more connected person to this world. To be a more present person. This was a practice run for life. To do unto others as I would have them do unto me!
The story doesn’t end here! As fate would have it I would have to walk past this man a few days later on the way to my class. This time it was easier to smile, keep a lighthearted gaze and even get a “good morning” out. Then another day as I walked up those stairs, halfway to the top he ran up the steps to catch up with me and introduce himself. Yep, ran up the steps to stop me, shake my hand and ask me my name. This gorgeous man whom had been coming to workout at my work for months and all because one day I took the time to notice him was talking to me.
At the time of writing this gorgeous man is now a client and friend of mine. There’s no question that this wouldn’t be the case had I not looked him in the eyes that day.
What was I scared of before? Why had I lost my ability to “see” others? Probably a combination of a few things. Post break up and self absorbed in my own dealings, the darn phone that has an app for everything possible to distract me from reality no thinking I was working, busy, or that my fleeting glance was enough.
I’ll tell you it feels good when someone looks back. That attention and acknowledgement is a great ego boost. It does not matter if its a man, woman, co-worker, child etc. The act of taking a second to notice someone is another second in your day you can be noticed. You exist! You’re worth getting to know.
Will there be people who look away? Yep! But, don’t worry yourself about that. This is one of those “pay it forward”, “takes a village” beginnings of something going “viral”. They may be where I was. Not able too see, not willing to see, too scared, nervous not ready to be vulnerable. Don’t worry. You do your thing. You see them and continue on. Tomorrow brings a new day, you might even see them again. They might take a bit to warm up. The world is so small.
Are there people whom you shouldn’t may eye contact? Yes, you know those ones though. There are no absolutes in life. There’s a lot of shades of grey. So, trust your gut a bit here. Don’t be afraid to smile at the man at the gym. The business woman waiting for her latte. The little kid trying to hide behind his mom’s leg. You are a trendsetter. Yes, its time we make connecting in real life a trend again!