The Importance of making eye contact

The Eyes Have It

Shortly before the Covid lockdowns, a neighbor of mine published her first novel. She held a book reading and signing in an art gallery downtown, complete with a wine and cheese reception and stacks of books for sale (stacks that rapidly dwindled; she is an excellent writer). After she read a passage from the novel and fielded some questions from the audience, we lined up with our copies and waited our turn as she graciously spoke with us and signed them.

The art gallery that held the reception was floor-to-ceiling abstract art that held some works in progress as well as completed pieces. As I waited in line and sipped my wine, a tall man stood behind me. I recognized him as the owner of the gallery: in his forties, or thereabouts; not very young, but with hair and a beard that had yet to show any signs of gray.

We chatted about his studio and I admired his work. He talked about another art studio that he had in Brooklyn, and mentioned that he and his wife traveled back and forth between the two quite a bit. Not knowing – or even thinking – about how in a month, the idea of travel like that would be impossible because of the virus, I commented on how great it all sounded.

He was a very kind man, and what struck me most about our conversation was that he looked me in the eyes the entire time we were talking. I’m the kind of person who often looks around as I talk, trying to find the right words, but he wasn’t like that. He genuinely listened as I talked, not interrupting, and waited until I finished with a sentence before starting his.

I should be honest: it was jarring! I was so used to the folks in my life being much like myself by talking over each other, interrupting here and there (not impolitely, of course, we just enjoy lively conversation). But the owner of the art gallery didn’t do any of that. And not just with me, either: with everyone he talked to, he did the same thing. Listened, conversed, and looked them right in the eyes the entire time.

It was a wonderful feeling, probably similar to what the kids say these days when they say “I feel seen.” Being looked at in the eyes when someone is talking to you validates you, makes you feel as though you are worth looking at.

And you are worth looking at.

I remembered this the other day when I was thinking about how long it’s been now that we’ve been wearing masks that have covered up most of our faces, leaving pretty much just our eyes. Our eyes have had to do a lot more of the work communicating our thoughts and feelings this past year. What have your eyes told others this year? What have your friends’, and your neighbors’ eyes told you? Have you looked? In the mirror, what do you see in your own eyes?

There has been a lot to reflect on when it comes to the pandemic – years’ and years’ worth. There was plenty of suffering to be had (and still even so today). But one thing that may have served us well is the ability to look each other in the eye. It’s something that I hope we can keep up, long after the blessed day when the all-clear has been sounded!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

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