In improv, we’re always told to make eye contact with your scene partners before we start our scenes or sets as a way of checking in, of trust, of acknowledging your scene partner. Along the same lines, if you are looking to start a new scene completely, you can even walk on stage while another scene is happening, but as long as no eye contact is made, it’s assumed that you’re starting a new scene because the old one was not acknowledged. It may seem like a small thing, but eye contact, or avoidance of it, can be the difference between starting a new scene completely or just having someone add to the existing scene.
In combat arts, you make eye contact (and bow sometimes, but at the very least, eye contact) as a sign of respect. Of acknowledgement, of trust in sportsmanship/rules. That’s why even if you do not know the context of this picture, you can still tell offense is being meant:
In any sort of customer service job, I would argue that eye contact is probably one of the most important things. Because it shows that you acknowledge the customer. It is a communicative gesture of connection. It shows that you value their presence. Sound familiar?
In any sort of presentation or public speaking, it’s widely agreed that you shift your gaze throughout the audience, from person to person. Why? Because it’s a sign of…acknowledgement, connection, communication, respect.
When trying to merge into another lane, you try to make eye contact with the other person. Why? You can probably guess at this point. And if the other person stares blankly ahead and averts their eyes, you can be pretty sure you’re not getting in that lane.
I could go on and on, but it’s a generally accepted idea that that being human, you make eye contact as a connection, as acknowledgement, as a sign of respect for the other person. In fact, when someone doesn’t make eye contact, it’s very jarring and disconcerting, for me at least. It’s just a courtesy thing, which apparently some people are completely ignorant of. It’s probably why liars don’t make eye contact. And it sure as hell is why rude people don’t make eye contact.
Just as even one fleeting second of eye contact can be enough to ensure that two human beings, regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, etc., are on the same page, three full minutes of avoidance of eye contact sticks out in the same way an automaton would in a group of humans (unless they are the T-1000). Wikipedia defines eye contact as this: “In human beings, eye contact is a form of nonverbal communication and is thought to have a large influence on social behavior. Coined in the early to mid-1960s, the term has come in the West to often define the act as a meaningful and important sign of confidence and social communication.” It’s non verbal communication. And avoidance of eye contact communicates a failure to acknowledge the existence of the other, a rejection of their inherent value as a social being. Just try going into a job interview and not making any sort of eye contact. It’s awkward, disconcerting, and probably the reason why you won’t get a job (your interview at Yojie must have been some strange anomaly).
I’ve made my case. Disagree away, but extend the courtesy of looking me in the eye when you do.