During a ( previously recorded, and replayed due to Covid) workshop I took recently, the presenter asked participants to try an experiment. She asked everyone in the audience to turn to the person sitting next to them, and look into their eyes. The instructions were to simply focus on looking in the eyes of the person across from you for twenty seconds. Notice the color of their eyes, the expression of their eyes, and any emotion you might see there.

The camera panned the audience. The level of discomfort was obvious even through the recorded video. Participants giggled, squirmed in their seats, and broke eye contact long before twenty seconds were up. Afterwards, the presenter asked audience members how they felt, and what they noticed. Answers included:

  • “That was hard.”
  • “I felt so vulnerable.”
  • “I didn’t like that.”
  • “I couldn’t do it”
  • “I couldn’t stop laughing.”

Next, the presenter asked the audience in general if they could remember the last time they looked someone in the eyes. That was followed by asking if they could recall the last time they looked themselves in the eyes.

The presenter asked four or five audience members to stand and answer those same questions. One woman responded that she looked her baby in the eyes when they were a newborn, but now that the child was 7, it wasn’t something she did anymore. A couple of other parents seemed to nod in agreement.

After a couple minutes of asking the same questions of different people, the presenter came to the conclusion that most people don’t look into the eyes of others’ every often.

The audience was made up of health coaches, nurses, business owners, and doctors. People who should know better.

It’s been said that “the eyes are the window to the soul,” and I do believe that’s true. Countless religious leaders, philosophers and authors and others have made lasting comments about how we can learn so much about each other by looking into the eyes of the people around us. Here are a few.

  •  “The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.” – Charlotte Bronte
  • “Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal.” – Samuel Richardson
  • “The eyes shout what the lips fear to say.” – William Henry

I believe that something as simple as making eye contact when we interact with each other could go a long way to helping us understand each other.

When I was a kid, it was drilled into me that you LOOK at people when you interact with them. My father was a stickler for this. If I didn’t look him in the eye when I talked to him, or when he was talking to me, I heard about it. My mom, extended family, and even teachers all expected the same thing. I had an English teacher who would walk away from students if they spoke to her without looking her in the eye.

I taught my kids to look people in the eyes when interacting, but I think that, in general, it’s become a lost form of respect.

After the workshop, I started paying attention to how people interact with each other. I started watching to see if the clerk at the grocery store, person behind the counter, or even my husband looked me in the eyes when we talked.

What I learned was that no, they didn’t. Not even my husband looked me in the eyes most of the time. In general, people look past each other. I noticed myself doing it when I was tired, stressed, or in a bad mood.

I made an intentional effort to look people in the eye when I talked to them. That included the mailman, the clerk at my favorite store who always seems disengaged and grumpy, and my husband and kids.

What I learned was this: it made a difference, with almost everyone I interacted with. Just as importantly, looking other people in the eyes effected how I felt, as well. I felt more connected to people. I felt like they were listening better. I felt like we understood each other better.

I didn’t ask any of these people if they noticed a difference – except for my husband, but that’s another story- so I don’t know if they were impacted by the small change that I made. But I know I was.

Looking at the current state of our country, I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding going on. It seems to me that American’s are letting the media think for them -letting the media tell them what other American’s think, believe and feel. We’re forgetting that “the media” has its own agenda. It doesn’t matter which media outlet we are talking about, or which format we’re discussing. They ALL have their own agenda.

A better solution to the current problems facing the U.S is for us to talk to each other. Obviously, people are hurting right now. If we’re being totally honest, everyone in this country, everyone in the world is hurting on some level right now. A pandemic will do that.

One way to help each other cope, and heal is to stop, breathe and look each other in the eyes while we go about our daily business.

Take the time to really SEE the other person. What do their eyes say? Are their eyes saying something different from the rest of their body language? What are their words saying that might be different from their eyes and body language? Really pay attention and interact with the person, instead of simply getting through.

Meaningful contact with other living beings reduces the stress hormones, supports healing, raises endorphins, and even improves the immune system.

All good things. All important things. All critical to healing us – mind, body, and soul.

Tell me your thoughts.