Eye Contact

My friend laughed when I told her how persistent my dad was about making eye contact when speaking to or listening to someone.

My friend laughed when I told her how persistent my dad was about making eye contact when speaking to or listening to someone. I hated it when he would say,

I hated it when he would say, “Look at me when I’m speaking to you.” The rule wasn’t just when he needed my attention. It was when anyone was talking to me.

“You know, Deana, when babies are born, making eye contact with them is their first connection with the people who love them.”

She’s right. Eye gaze is one of the most exciting milestones babies achieve! I remember the first time I saw my baby’s eyes recognized me–her mom.

During the Covid-19 quarantine, it has felt odd since social distancing and wearing masks have become a part of everyday life.  I didn’t realize how many visual cues I took for granted before the lockdown started.

“I miss seeing people’s smiles and the lines around their mouths,” I told her. “I notice that some people turn away when you walk by, while others seem to be afraid to make eye contact.” She said she noticed that, too.

Eye contact and listening with our ears is probably the most powerful way we communicate. A single fleeting look from across a room or the change or hesitation in someone’s voice can speak volumes.

About 80% of the information we receive from the environment comes to us through our vision. Like it or not, our eyes are also involved in telegraphing cues to others about our emotions, health status, social attractions, and behavioral intentions.

A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American poet and philosopher, said, “An eye can threaten like a loaded and leveled gun, or can insult like hissing and kicking; or in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, make the heart dance with joy.”

Wow! What a powerful statement of how important our eyes are in our communication with others.

Maybe that’s why there are so many songs written about the eyes. Songs about Lyin’ Eyes, Crying Eyes, Cheating Eyes, and Loving Eyes tell stories.

Think about all the emotions and messages conveyed through our eyes; the love in our partner’s eyes, the trust in the eyes of a friend, the truth you see or not see when dealing with the world, and the joy when a child can see the pride in their parent’s eyes.

Keeping eye contact with the person you are talking to is also respectful. It indicates that you are focused and paying attention. It means that you’re essential to them.

My friend continued to say, “As we get older, we stop looking into the eyes of those we love, and sometimes that’s why relationships begin to fail.”

With computers and phones becoming our constant companions and social partners, we are having more conversations without actually hearing or seeing each other.

It is easy to feel like an intruder who should come back later when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone looking at their phone instead of you.

Shakespeare said, “The eyes are the windows to our soul.” Maybe that is why we don’t know what’s going in our children’s lives or our partner’s hearts. If we are not looking at each other, we may be missing something.

In matters of the heart, if we look closely into the eyes of those we know, we can sometimes see feelings they have no words for, like pain, fear, anger, despair, or intent.

Our eyes also reflect integrity, sincerity, and comfort when communicating with others. They tell us if the conversation is going well, and when the conversation is not going well.

When I was dating my husband, he looked at me one day and said, “You have the most beautiful brown eyes.” I moved away and said, “My eyes are green.”

He blushed and said, “I’m sorry; I’m color blind.” That is the day I knew he loved me. I saw it in his eyes. It also explained why his clothes never matched.

My dad could tell how much it irritated me by the way I rolled my eyes when he was trying to teach me this communication skill. But it was some of the best advice he gave me.

I understand the social distancing that is necessary during the COVID-19 quarantining, but I hope it doesn’t become the “new normal,” because we need to see each other.

It will be beautiful when our world opens up again, we can say what Katherine Mansfield wrote in her 1888 poem: “Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who are all happy, to press hands, press cheeks, and smile into another’s eyes.”


Author's Image
Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

I have had many roles in life
Pastor’s Wife , Mom/Nana , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer , Christian Speaker
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing stories, either in my head or in my journal.

[Read full bio]

Story Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas, Deana. I really appreciate your Dad's advice. My Dad taught me the same thing. Along with a good handshake. Even though I was a girl/woman, I should give a good grip and look that person in the eye at the same time. Now when someone gives me a "limp" handshake, it makes me happy that I learned that life lesson.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Meegan, for reading and responding to my column. I once gave a boss a limp handshake because I was distracted and she looked me in the eye and said you need to practice giving a firm handshake! Never made that mistake again. Deana

  2. This is so well written, I never thought about the eyes this way. I can't wait to give my family and friends a big group hug once this is all over!

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Roxanne, for reading and commenting on my story. I feel the same way you do. I can't wait to hug my family and friends again. Deana

  3. So many small special things seem to be disappearing right now and you're right people do seem to be avoiding eye contact. I miss seeing people's smiles too and the lines around their mouths. I didn't realize how many visual cues I took for granted before the lockdown started. With that been said, we're amazing beings and I'm sure we'll create new specialness from the craziness. <3

    • Deana Landers -

      You're right, Michelle. People have come through some difficult times in this world, worse than what we are going through now. And yet they have survived and let us amazing examples of survival, love, courage and strength. When we are able to see each other's smiles again, they will be brighter and stronger. Thank you, Deana

  4. Good Afternoon Deana, I so, so enjoyed this article and I totally agree! Just like you I was required to make eye contact and also give a firm handshake. It was my Mother who was always after me to look her in the eye. I miss the interactions at the grocery store and even the chuckles that ensue as shoppers would pass one another along the aisles. In fact I was at the grocery today and out of habit put my lipstick on...sort of felt sad that no one knew. I so enjoyed this story! Jemma

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, always, Jemma, for reading and commenting on my story. I have stopped wearing makeup, too. Please forgive me for saying this but the world is a lonely place now and we have to make it better:) Deana

  5. I couldn’t agree more, Deana! Moons ago I taught front line employees about greeting guests! Eye contact and smile were always 1 & 2!! Enjoyed!!

    • Deana Landers -

      Lori, I taught my children this same communication skill and they often tell me how it affects their relationships. Not just that, I love looking into people's eyes. There is a lot you can see when you pay attention. Thank you for reading and commenting on my story, Lori. Deana

  6. Maria -

    I notice people make short eye contact lately. Even before Covid, people tend to be too busy to stop! Some make eye contact in my neighborhood since it’s partially retirement community. People have more time on there hands.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you always, Marla, for reading and commenting. Deana

  7. Becky -

    I love you friend!❤ I 👀 what you're saying here, great wisdom... we need to pay attention to one another. ❤ Thanks for another sweet and enlightening story.

    • Ruby Minter -

      Hi Deana. Loved this and so true. I don’t feel comfortable when people won’t look me in the eyes. When Moma was discussing a teenage response she said I wasn’t giving the full truth because I kept glancing away. I usually looked Moma in the eyes and you know how discerning Moma was anyway❣️😊 This always stuck with me tho. Plus you feel like someone really wants to spend time with you if they look you in the eye when having conversations. Love you my friend. I always have eye contact with you❣️❣️❣️❣️

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Becky, for your friendship and all our wonderful conversations. Deana

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