The Power of Looking People in the Eye

I’ve been on about a ten year mission to test an idea. I believe that when we take a moment to make eye contact with others, we see their humanity and remind them of ours.

It doesn’t work 100 percent of time. Some people will refuse or avoid making eye contact. Others will look away and then glance to see if you’re making eye contact.

In that moment when it happens, I often observe a breath and a smile from the other person. There’s something reassuring in knowing someone actually sees you. Ive seen it instantly change someone’s mood and shift conversation beyond surface pleasantries.

Many of us conduct five, 10, 50 interactions a day. There’s a tendency these exchanges to be mechanical an not very human. The checkout clerk at the grocery store and you put on your employee and customer role masks and conduct the transaction.

It’s enough to make us forget we’re engaged with another complex human being with a whole life beyond this transaction. It can allow us to see the line of customers as just a number or the checkout clerk as someone with the job to satisfy me and to let them have it if they don’t.

I take a different strategy. I ask them how their day’s going in a way that sounds like I care. I accept that the store, the restaurant, the bank can make errors and I’m prepared to give them the grace and the space to fix it.

Finally, I always close the transaction with a smile, eye contact, and a sincere thank you. Even if all they did is ring up two items. People aren’t thanked enough for what they do. They aren’t smiled at enough. They aren’t connected with the eyes enough.

We live in a world that seems to strip our humanity and steal the connections that make us all human.

This is one small way rehumanize each other in small doses throughout the day.

Wherever you are on your journey today, be proud of the progress you’re making.