The Secrets of Successful Eye Contact

Shakespeare said, “The eyes are the windows of the soul.” If that is true, then aspies prefer shutters and blinds. Eye contact is a perennial thorn in the side of aspies who desire and seek out social contact but would rather not lock eyes with their colleagues, friends, or lovers. The discomfort of eye contact ranges from vague to unbearable. The results of improper eye contact can be socially catastrophic in an NT world.

But all is not lost. Taking a look at the subconscious needs of NTs and aspies reveals a pattern of mistaken communication that can be righted with a little knowledge and practice. Read on for GroovyDruid’s entire article!

The Aspie Problem

Most aspies express confusion about eye contact and its meaning to NTs. Studies suggest that aspies and auties avoid eye contact because it triggers a “fight or flight” mechanism in their brains. The mechanism is subconscious. They feel no desire for eye contact, so they fail to empathize with the seeming hunger NTs have for it. Aspies avoid looking people directly in the face to maintain their own calmness and comfort.


The NT Problem

NTs have three negative reactions to improper eye contact. The nature of the reaction depends on whether an NT receives no eye contact at all, too little eye contact, or too much. An NT’s reaction, like that of an aspie, is usually subconscious and outside his awareness. It comes as a vague feeling of antipathy. The secret to successful eye contact with an NT lies in a Golden Mean.


No Eye Contact

NTs react two different ways to a complete absence of eye contact: feelings of dominance or unimportance. An NT who is pushing an agenda will see the absence of eye contact as a sign that the other party submits to him. He will judge that the other party literally “cannot face him,” and he can do whatever he pleases.

When an NT asks a question or seeks attention from someone but receives no eye contact, he interprets it as a dismissal: “I have no time for you, ” or “I’m not interested in what you have to say.” An NT feels unimportant and unheard.


Too Little Eye Contact

For an aspie, the subject of too little eye contact raises a technical question: “Wait a minute: how much is too little? How do I tell?” Studies show that two people in a normal, healthy conversation make eye contact 30-60% of the time.

When the eye contact drops below 30%, an NT begins to feel that his conversation partner is untrustworthy. The stereotype of the shifty-eyed crook is really a dramatization of a deep psychological mechanism in NTs. Few NTs would be able to pinpoint the source of their unease as lack of eye contact, but they will say something like, “I feel like he’s hiding something.”

The result: an NT will of course react in kind: he will begin to feel guarded and withdrawn himself. Pretty soon, for no apparent reason, the conversation dries up and stops.


Too Much Eye Contact

The general reaction of an NT receiving too much eye time is to feel as if the other person is more interested in him personally than in what he is actually saying. He will say, “I feel like he’s trying to get something from me.” The specific reaction varies depending on whether it is a man or a woman receiving too much eye time. two examples:

An NT woman receiving an intense gaze from a man in excess of 60% of the time will often decide that the “something wanted” from her is sex. She will become turned off and offended. “What a creep.” Many an aspie man has made this mistake on a date by trying to be attentive, only to wind up making the lady feel like a bug under a microscope.

When an NT man receives a stare from another man, his gut reaction is to pound the offender flat. Why? Because between human males–and most other animals from parrots to gorillas–an unbroken stare signals aggression. Whether he strikes out or not, communication is certain to go down the tubes.


Solutions

Certain people connected to aspies–family members, close friends, steady lovers–tolerate inconsistent eye contact. But what about all those situations that require a much-needed good first impression? Job interviews, college admissions interviews, first dates, second dates … the list goes on and on. What is an aspie to do?


Soft Focus

A viable alternative to uncomfortable eye contact comes from what optometrists call “soft focus.” Soft focus means that the attention of the viewer moves from the center of his vision to the peripheral vision. Athletes, swordsmen, and fast readers practice soft focus as a way of life.

Aspies can do the same. The trick comes in setting the center of the vision on the other person’s eyes, but moving the attention away from the person’s eyes to the peripheral vision. Physiologically, it causes the viewer to relax. An aspie gets the added bonus of avoiding the discomfort of locked eye contact.


Checking In

NTs expect eye contact only at certain times, during what I call “The Check-In”. The check-in comes when the speaker locks eyes briefly with his listener to make sure he is tracking along. The trick is, aspies, make sure you are there for the check in! Using your soft focus, lock eyes for a second or two. If the speaker continues to stare at you, break the gaze and look away. You’ve done your job. You have told the speaker you are tracking along and are comfortable with him.

When you are the speaker, repeat the same process backwards. Check in with your listener using soft focus, then give it a break. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. They’ll love you.


Controlling the Field

Aspies who start out using these techiniques will most likely become tired after a short while. Stamina comes with practice. Until that stamina is built, it is important to control the field. Make sure to have an excuse ready when you get tired, so that you can bow out without exceeding your tolerance. Remember: practice breeds stamina, but failure breeds frustration. Do not push yourself beyond what you can do!

Use

Eye contact is subtle body language. That’s all, no mystery involved. Any aspie can improve his communication skills to some degree by learning and applying the rules of eye contact. I really believe you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it becomes after some regular use, and how much more tolerable and even successful face-to-face interaction becomes. Very best wishes!

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