Amazing Eyes: Eye Contact & Truly Letting People In

by Carmel Reid, Somerset UK

I recently wrote a blog¹ about Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness). There were some great comments that inspired me to ponder further on how much we do or don’t make eye contact. I have been playfully experimenting with REALLY looking into people’s eyes and it has been truly revealing.

In a SKYPE conversation when the camera is just away from a person’s face, it’s tricky – you either look at them on the screen or at the camera, it’s impossible to do both at the same time, so you never actually make full eye contact.

A short time ago, I was chatting with my son, who is 30 and has Moebius Syndrome – you can read his amazing blog and see pictures in the link at the end of this article². He was born with Cranial Nerves VI and VII (6 and 7) not working, so he has no facial expression – can’t move his lips and smile, can’t frown, and has difficulty blinking. He also has a squint. He can make his eyes look at you but that gives him a bit of a scary look. I explained to him that when I talk to someone with a squint I try to discern which eye is looking at me and talk to that one. 

As our conversation developed, I began to realise just how much I tend to focus vaguely on a person’s face or I lip read rather than eye-read. Since then I have noticed more and more just how much I do this. As a child I couldn’t see faces, as my eyes were so short sighted, everything was out of focus, so I guess I never bothered to change that. I am, however, very good at reading body language, being very alert to subtle signals, and can recognise people from behind just by the way they walk, or even the way they bend over.

A few days after the conversation with my son, I had a similar one with my daughter. She is really good at remembering faces – she’s the one who would always patiently explain to me who was who in a film. Her partner joined in the conversation and said how he likes people to make true eye contact with him and I realised that I had not been. It has been an amazing discovery about my own behaviour.

I used to teach Assertiveness and Confident Communication and would tell people just how important eye contact was, if you wanted to be listened to, and I thought I was pretty good at it. I realise now, that for me it was all about communicating outward, especially when I taught Presentation Skills. Thinking back to how I used to present myself, it was all about commanding their attention and then gauging their reaction to me, so that I could tell if they were interested or not. I wasn’t really feeling them. It was a controlling way of keeping people out. I don’t think I really understood that eye contact is about letting people in. Now, I’m learning to RECEIVE through the eyes. Not just to sense their reaction (judgement, boredom etc.) but to receive WHO THEY ARE. It’s a whole different feeling.

Continuing with my playful experiment, at work in a busy supermarket, I have been gently making direct eye contact with the people who pass through my checkout. It’s been great fun. It may be only for a fleeting moment but I’ve found that some people don’t look at me at all, and some people really smile, as if we’ve made a genuine connection of mutual understanding. Sometimes I catch myself switching on a ‘customer care’ type of smile and people smile back at me politely. I can feel the falseness of that and much prefer to make a simple heart-felt connection with the eyes. It may or may not include a smile, but it feels TRUE.

The other day, there was a baby who looked at me seriously for quite a while, and I looked at her. As soon as I focused on her eyes and we made deep eye contact, with no expectation on my part, she broke out into the most joyful wriggle and beautiful smile, which made us all laugh.

Parents are often telling their children to ‘Smile’ or ‘Say Hello’ and I just say – “I’m getting the STARE – that’s better than any smile”. I find it awesome how babies really look at you, it’s as if they can see deep inside you, to the parts you normally keep hidden from society.

When I look into the eyes of Serge Benhayon or any of the Benhayon family members, they do the same, they really look at me. I found it scary at first, but now I know that what they see is how amazing I am, something I didn’t want to admit to because I was hanging onto my identity of not being good enough.

Now I can enjoy the eye contact, knowing that what they see, even though I still can’t always feel it, is truly who I am. I can allow myself to feel the joy they reflect, and the fun that I can have being ALL OF ME.

I’m still playing with my little experiment, while chatting with friends and everyone I meet, knowing that I can look into their eyes with confidence, and that I can choose to allow them in.

Sometimes it still feels a little scary, and sometimes it feels amazing. When I truly focus, there’s a feeling of gentle calmness, and then, just like with that baby, a giggle bubbles up from deep inside.

¹ My Blog on Prosopagnosia: Who are the People behind these Beautiful Faces
² My Son’s Story: Russell Briggs – The Many Faces of Moebius Syndrome

297 thoughts on “Amazing Eyes: Eye Contact & Truly Letting People In

  1. I love this Carmel, how we can receive people with our eyes, and can feel in this that we just are there, no agenda, ‘naked’ in the sense that we let them see us.

  2. Being present and fully connecting with another through gentle eye contact automatically allows for a deepening of the connection.

  3. I love it when babies stare at you without any holding back and connect to you on a soul level, past this human body of ours. Almost af if they are remembering where they also come from.

  4. I currently have an opportunity to volunteer in an aged care home and be with dementia residents for a couple of hours each week, I am learning the importance of eye contact – some avoid it altogether, but a few respond and the connection with their essence feels beautiful.

    1. True Carmel but I have experienced that although they avoid your eyes in the beginning that there can be a change when they know you longer, not with all but with some of the dementia residents in an aged care home where I have worked I noticed this change sometimes only a glimpse but enough to connect with each other.

  5. I did an experiment myself last week with looking into everybody’s eyes I met and boy did it make a difference. Of course not everybody looked at me and some really didn’t want to connect, but with others I just felt an instant connection and my heart just opened up more.

  6. On reading this article it brought up for me the reality of just what we are missing in our lives. Every moment we don’t connect through eye to eye contact and choose instead to look away, avoid, look past or dismiss another we have deprived them and ourselves of feeling a moment where our essences meet as one and the richness this brings to our life.

  7. If we have trained our eyes to see only the surface layer, we blind ourselves to the deeper truth and beauty that lives and breathes beneath it.

  8. What we say yes to has a profound effect on us. When we say yes to ‘I am not being good enough’, why on Earth would I Iook people at their eyes? This has a logic. If I look at their eyes and allow them to look at mines, they will see that I am not good enough. On the other hand, why would I bother to let them in if inside me there is nothing interesting? So, I avoid this possibility as much as possible; a perfect way to re-confirm what I have said yes to.

    1. It is our fear of being truly naked that prevents us from living with the transparency that allows another to see the depth of who we are.

  9. Thank you Carmel, it’s a beautiful reminder of how much we can all receive when we make a true connection through eye contact. It’s also given me a pause to appreciate how much I enjoy eye contact and to notice more what happens when I truly connect to others this way.

    1. And what an easy way it is to keep people out by not letting them look into your eyes, a perfect form of protection and saying NO to the love that is on offer.

  10. Yes I love the way young children just stand in front of people and stare at them, taking them all in and feeling and noticing everything about them. My young niece does this with people in an incredible way, she notices everything and then asks exactly the right question to each person that gets them to open up or cracks something in them- I love watching her in action, she is very inspiring and very beautiful.

  11. Beautifully shared Carmel. I especially love the description of your interaction with the baby. It reminds me how often I force a smile in order to show I am friendly and makes me wonder what would happen if I simply received people with an open and loving gaze and a surrendered body.

    1. This is an interesting point, Leonne, I am beginning to learn how love truly feels in my body even when I don’t express it in words, it is a most beautiful feeling and I can feel it emanating beyond my body, so if I were to truly feel that same love with everyone I meet, they would feel it too – they might not recognise it, but they will certainly feel something. We don’t need to be ‘nice’ for anybody, it has such a yucky energy about it, I cringe now when I think about how I used to be.

    2. I can relate to the forced smile that seems to come on automatically in certain situation and it feels good to observe this and allow myself to simply relax my body and see what happens then.

      1. Hi Esther, it’s great to clock when we do things like smile ‘nicely’ because it gives us an opportunity to re-imprint how we greet people, perhaps going to a deeper level so that they can feel our essence and hence their own. Relax and see what happens, exactly!

  12. I love the title of this blog and it says it all really – letting people in. As well as, or perhaps beyond, what our eyes might be focusing on, there is a quality we offer in being with another, something that comes with how we already are with ourselves therefore with the world.

  13. What a beautiful blog –
    Opening us up to the reality of life and connection. Beautiful how connection is in the eyes and that when we look deeply into each others eyes it reveals everything we can not escape. Thats why I love looking into people their eyes.

  14. There are times when I avoid eye contact with close friends and, rather like Sarah’s children above, it is usually because I’ve become dis-connected and it feels uncomfortable but I’m not wanting to shift from that space, it probably explains why, when I was first trained as a counsellor we were advised to sit at 90 degrees because directly opposite could feel very confrontational.

  15. I have just started in a super market Carmel, and I love to really meet people by making eye contact as they pass through my checkout, and make that connection however small because everything counts.

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