While peacefully journaling under an ancient oak tree I felt a presence join me. I was being watched. The feeling of eyes focused on me was so strong I had to stop writing and look around. No people were present; no dog was sitting nearby wagging its tail; and rabbits, squirrels, and birds were going about their morning business. Looking on the ground around me I discovered my companion. At the base of the tree grew lush ferns and on one fern frond, partially hidden, was a gecko focused completely on me. It wasn’t an intrusive eye, just an inquisitive one.
Quietly I said “Hello, and how are you today?” Its head went back and forth as though it was looking at me from different angles. Neither of us moved as we stayed eye to eye, checking each other out. A dialogue began with me quietly talking but not moving. The gecko replied by nodding its head, periodically puffing up its red throat flag, and moving a tiny bit closer. After a while I returned to journaling without any further communication, thinking the gecko would go on its way. The next time I looked the gecko was fully revealed, several inches closer, and still focused on me.
Every time I returned to writing I could feel gecko eyes watching me. I began looking up more often, and always found the gecko was right there focused on me, and a little bit closer. What started out as a questioned presence became a pleasant companion, and the two of us kept up an ongoing conversation until it was time for me to leave. We never touched, but we still connected. It didn’t matter that our bodies, lifestyles, and language were different: We both enjoyed the companionship of eye contact, and the safety we felt in slowly getting closer to each other. I had made a friend.
Without eye contact we would not have connected. The same is true with humans. Infants have the ability to look into their caregivers eyes and hold that gaze even if it moves. A.J. Harbinger writes “Eye contact is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to make a person feel recognized, understood, and validated.” Don’t we all want to be understood, validated, and recognized? The act of simply holding someone’s gaze can create that, whether we’re beginning a new friendship or deepening an existing one. Like the gecko and I, mutual gazing creates pleasure in each other’s presence and a sense of shared closeness.
When we’re talking to someone and they are looking around the room instead of looking at us, we know they’re not listening. Have you ever had a doctor do that to you? They do need to type information into their computers when they’re working with us, but if they aren’t taking time to look us in the eye, especially when we’re asking questions or expressing a concern, we’re in the wrong place. It’s time for a different doctor.
Often we can tell how a person is feeling by looking in their eyes. Sometimes we don’t even need to ask them how they are: We can see the excitement, joy, sadness, pain, and every other emotion without a word being said. Then we can offer support, encouragement, laughter, help or hugs as needed. It’s a meaningful gift to meet eye to eye. If looking at a gecko can bring a lizard and human closer, think how much more we can enrich our daily relationships by connecting person to person through the power of eye contact. I’m going to see what more I can learn about myself and others as I practice this connecting skill. Anyone care to join me?
Until Next Time – Sylvia