Manners Monday: Eye Contact
It’s time to start the week with another Manners Monday post. This week, we’re working on looking into people’s eyes. It’s a common courtesy to make eye contact when we’re talking. It makes people feel like they matter and their words matter. And, it makes us feel that way when people look at us, too. Our eyes show how we’re feeling and help us connect more personally with other people. It’s an essential element to building relationships that make life more enjoyable, productive and successful, yet, people just don’t do it anymore. I’m not sure why. Is it because we’re on the phone and computer so much that we’re not used to looking at people? Or, we are “multi-tasking” to the point that we’ve forgotten how to pay attention when a conversation is happening? I have no idea. Nothing makes sense to me anymore. I even find myself not making eye-contact when I’m having conversations and I think, “what is wrong with me?!” People deserve our attention and we deserve their attention when we’re talking. It’s as simple as that. So, put your phone down and let’s do it.
Am I crazy? Is eye contact really not a big deal? Comment!
This week’s rule:
Look people in the eyes
Put it into practice:
Toddlers 1 – 3 years old:
This is phase one intervention. I sort of mentioned this when I was talking about teaching your kids to say please and thank you but I’ll talk you through it here, too. Basically, what we do when we remember is say, “Look at me. Now say it.” whenever our little one is talking into the air but expecting us to be listening. Because I’ve been paying attention to him, I realize that I’m really bad about eye contact, too. So, I have to practice what I preach and ask him to look at me when I’m talking to him. I say his name and ask him to look at me. Then I point to me eyes and say, “look at my eyes” and say what I need to say. I don’t do this every time I need to say something, I’m not THAT crazy. (some might argue) But, whenever I’m making a big point or I want us to have a conversation beyond a yes or no, I try to remember to do this. It’s phase one so tread lightly, they’re little monkeys still.
Kids 3 – 9 years old:
Here, we can really start practicing. When kids meet someone, they already know to say, “Hello” so now we can start reminding them to look the person in the eyes then, too. That means not looking at your cell phone, ipad, toy, book, friend, out a window, at your shoes, off into the distance, or closing your eyes. I understand that some people and kids are anxious, nervous, and shy so introduce one thing at a time. This might take months to put into practice. That’s fine. Even if the eye contact is just for a second, then a few seconds, then for the whole conversation, you’ll get there.
This is the time to get kids into the habit of doing making eye contact. It will serve them well for the rest of their lives. People respond better when they are making eye contact. Ever heard of shifty eyes? Well, we’re about to be a world of shifty eyed crazies if we don’t do something about it. Here’s a list of times when you and your kids should be looking people in the eyes.
When to look people in the eyes:
- When you say “hello”
- When you say “goodbye”
- When someone is talking to you in person
- When you are talking to someone in person
- When someone is talking to a group that you’re a part of
This means you look at someone if they talk to you when they walk in the room, while you’re watching TV or a movie or at a concert or a restaurant or any time except when…
…you’re driving a car, bike, skateboard, or schooner…or are in any type of situation where your safety and/or the safety of others is in danger if you look away from wherever they are focused.
Part 2 of this exercise is to notice if you start talking to someone and make it impossible for them to make eye contact. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I mean, huge. Do not talk to me if you don’t actually want to have a conversation. Excuse yourself and talk to me later. But, please dear Lord, do not start to talk and then turn a corner or worse, go into the bathroom and close the door. That is rude. Help your kids know how to have a conversation by pointing out when they’re doing weirdly and accidentally anti-social behavior. Explain to them why it’s hard for other people to want to listen when you seem to not care if they’re listening anyway. And, watch yourselves parents! Setting an example is the easiest and best way to reinforce good manners.
Ok, that’s enough of me ranting for this week.
But I do love this article on The Art of Manliness about The Importance of Eye Contact. Those guys know what’s up. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And, I always love a good Einstein quote to drive home a point:
I’m giving you one manner each week to work on with you kids whether they’re toddlers or 10 years old. After my enlightening and awesome conversation with manners enthusiast and super grandma Joyce Gray for my article on the manners revival on Huffington Post, I knew someone had to step up and start making manners a priority for families again. Hopefully, you agree with me and want to get on the manners train. Please share this post on your social networks and let us know how your it goes for your family while putting this week’s manner into practice. Thank you.