Have you ever tried keeping eye contact with a perfect stranger? Being drunk and flirting across the dance floor doesn’t count!
As many of you know I live in Norway, and there’s a sad truth about most Norwegians. Most of them are hopelessly bad at lifting their gaze from the ground (or their phones) while their out among strangers. Our shyness and introverted personalities can make us seem cold. And when I’m writing “us” it feels kind of wrong. I’m generally pretty good at keeping my eyes off the ground and I very consciously take in the world around me. I guess you could call me a curious, but not shy introvert, if there’s ever such a thing.
There’s just too much out there to look at for me to not do so! And working in retail as well doesn’t really work without the eye contact. But even though I’m really good at looking my customers in the eye, I’m not that good at it when I’m off the clock.
They say that the eyes are the windows to our souls, so why is it so scary to take a peek? Maybe it’s the fear of someone being able to look back into ones own. A vulnerability thing. Because sometimes it’s really scary to not only have someone look at you, but actually be able to see you.
What if they find something you didn’t know was there? Something you thought was hidden far enough away. Or maybe it’s the fear of misunderstanding. I know that can be a big one for me. Not wanting people to assume that I’m flirting, when all I’m trying to do, is to see you. And maybe the worst of them all is the fear of rejection. To get that look of disgust.
I’ve been through all of the above. Sometimes it hurts really bad, but most of the time I choose to just let it go. I don’t always succeed.
I finished listening to “The Art of Asking” (review will be up soon) by Amanda Palmer a couple of days ago. She talks a lot about making eye contact. About speaking with your eyes instead of your spoken words. I was utterly fascinated by her wonderful approach to people. Of how she made connections and friends in the most amazing and random (if anything really is random?) ways.
I was inspired (still am) and so I started to look. To see people. To silently say:
‘Here I am. Can I look into your soul if you can look back into mine?’
Sometimes it’s all kinds of awkward, but most things soften by the power of a gentle smile. Some people get really uncomfortable, and I usually don’t keep them so for too long. Just long enough for both of us to step a little outside of our comfort zone. And the great thing about it all, if they really don’t want to share the moment they can just look away. As easy as that! I can’t force them to do anything. Why would I?
Some people allow me to see more than I expected. Glossy eyes and a tiny smile that says:
‘Yes, I’m sad. Thank you for noticing.’
Others offer a little smile. Nothing flirty, but just a way to say:
‘Hey! I see you too!’
It’s really quite funny how we as people, who actually craves contact and interaction so badly, are so tragically shy about it.
So I dare you dive into the moment when eyes meet. Invite them in. Share the moment, however brief, with a perfect stranger. Or to look more closely into the eyes of someone you know. See them. Love them. Dare to open up and let them see you. And I promise you that I will keep on doing it too!
And I have to mention that when Kirsti and I was talking about the exactly this topic in a bar yesterday, a perfect stranger excused himself and told us that he had to take part in the conversation, if we’d let him.
The universe works in mysterious ways!
We ended up having a wonderful conversation about many topics, and suddenly the world had one less stranger.