I’ve been playing a new game recently and the results have been very interesting. The game was inspired by reading a random article from the Art of Manliness blog about the importance of eye contact in establishing and maintaining trust and cooperation between us humans. Like many of us from the geek end of the social spectrum, I really suck at it.
So the game, which can be played whenever you are walking through your neigbourhood or city’s streets, is designed to build confidence in making eye contact and give you an amazing new perspective into the lives of the people milling past you who would otherwise be just another ghostly pair of shoes.
The rules are simple:
- As you walk along, make sure you are wearing an open, friendly expression on your face.
- When you are about four paces from someone you are about to pass, look them in the eyes.
- Note that this does not mean a lazer gaze that will melt a hole clear through the back of their skull; eye contact means looking at each eye in turn taking in the brow and bridge of the nose as you pass gently between.
- Whatever the reaction is, enjoy it.
- If they return your gaze, do not flinch away. Smile.
Four paces is plenty of time to exchange a glance and a smile and to get a fleeting but meaningful glimpse behind the masks that people usually wear.
Playing the game for the past couple of weeks has made feel much more confident about making eye contact. In fact, it has simply made me feel more confident all of the time. Now that I’m over the initial hurdles, I’m beginning to wonder why I was so shy about this before – this is a behaviour I have known I needed to improve for a long time but never before looked the problem in the eye.