Please Look Me in the Eye When You’re Talking to Me.

Sounds like a simple enough request doesn’t it?

And for most people it is.

But I have found over the last few years that looking people in the eyes when I’m speaking to them is something that does not come naturally to me.

I can do it for brief periods of time when I really concentrate on it.

But in those brief moments of time I find that I focus so hard on reminding myself to look the other person in the eye, that I lose track of whatever it was I was saying in the first place.

No matter how badly I may have wanted to communicate an idea, whatever train of thought I might have been traveling on at the time, quite simply disappears.

It’s as if I can’t do those two things at once.

Because whenever I don’t try to rein my gaze in, even though it may wander all over the place, my though processes and communication skills remain clear.

I wonder what this says about me and how it affects the way others react to me?

I know for instance, that the idea of being able to look someone in the eye while speaking to them is often perceived as a sign of honesty.

It’s meant to indicate that the person speaking is telling the truth.

So what must people think of me when I’m speaking to them, yet not looking at them?

Sometimes the person I’m speaking too will actually turn around to try and see what it is that I’m looking at as I speak.

It is in those moments that I become acutely aware that I’m staring at a random spot on the wall or gazing at nothing more than the patch of invisible air just beside the person’s head.

Then there’s always that empty space just beyond the other person’s shoulder that somehow always seems to hold me spell-bound, for no apparent reason.

It seems I will look anywhere but into the eyes of the person I’m talking too.

One of the things I find so weird about this though isn’t just the fact that I can’t seem to look others in the eye when I’m speaking to them, it’s that I can easily, sometimes almost obsessively, look other people in the eyes when they are speaking to me.

It’s as if, when they’re speaking to me, eye contact  is not just Okay, it’s mandatory, but when I’m speaking to them, eye contact becomes an additional sensory burden.

It’s almost as if I can’t do the two things at once; Speak and look into another person’s eyes at the same time.

I do not understand why this is.

I only know that for some odd reason, I can’t seem to do this thing that comes so easily to others.

I’m not sure if it’s getting worse as I get older or whether years of noticing people’s strange reactions to me have simply made me more aware of it.

I’m also not sure whether or not this indicates that I have Aspie (Asperger) tendencies,  as I can look people in the eye, so I don’t actually have a fear of looking people in the eye, it’s just that I can’t  look them in the eyes when I’m talking.

Does anyone else experience this or know what it means?



9 thoughts on “Please Look Me in the Eye When You’re Talking to Me.

  1. I loved your take on eye contact. At a recent symposium, I spoke with Michael Moon [ check him out ], and he explained how painful it is to actually look at people in the eye…. I hate it too and have trained myself to look somewhere in the “eyeal” vicinity – it works …. 🙂

  2. Totally. I can’t do it easily, or all the time, either, and I”ve noticed it in other people, often. The thing is, you can either talk or look, not both – too much output. I think all this ‘look people in the eye’ thing is a load of crap, although it’s good to do it when people are talking to you, I think, as a way of showing you’re listening.

    1. I absolutely agree with you. So, so happy that someone else gets it too. It is all about too much output. That’s why I think I can focus so well on looking people in the eye when they are talking, because I’m not having to give any output when I’m listening. Although I do often get the impression that my lack of output during conversations annoys others sometimes too but when I’m listening, I’m really listening. Thank you so much for your response B.

  3. I absolutely see where you’re coming from. I’m not positive, either, if it’s just an Aspie tendency to feel uncomfortable with multi-tasking, but I DO know Aspies in general struggle with emotional overloads, as I do. I don’t know why, but it seems like an “overload” when I’m trying to, with emotion, convey something whilst staring into a person’s eyes. I forget what I’m saying when I notice too many stares, and feel uncomfortable/confused with too many people making intriguing facial reactions when I’m talking–it’s because, as an Aspie, I can’t interpret body language. Thus, I like to avoid in-person communication (although I know I shouldn’t). When I’m writing to converse, people aren’t confused by my emotions nor am I by theirs. I even feel awkward sometimes staring into a person’s eyes when he/she is talking to me, so sometimes I’ll look away for a brief moment and look back, the latter to show my care and that I’m listening…but yes, when I talk, I look away for the majority of the time, and look back at them only briefly to confirm they’re listening 🙂

  4. I’m very social, but cannot ever look someone in the eye, it seems uncomfortable to me, because I don’t like being looked in the eye myself. I feel like by not doing them, I am being respectful in some strange, psychological way. I tend to look around their eyes, shoulders and forehead. I am also very self-conscious and find I get a lot more cues based on someone’s body language than their eyes. Additionally, I come from a different culture, and looking someone in the eye there is considered intimidating by most. Talk to people the way you feel comfortable doing it and you’ll be okay, others will appreciate your company over the person’s who is constantly trying to correct them. Ask yourself, why are they wanting you to look them in the eye? Is it because they think you are not paying attention? Because you probably are, but a lot less likely so, now that you have to talk and concentrate on looking them in the eye. Is it because it’s rude not to? Maybe they are just being more intimidating than you are rude. We have ears for a reason, we can hear just fine without seeing. Sometimes it’s simpler to not to combine your senses, and instead listen well and spend your time coming up with a good retort in the meantime.

  5. I went searching for other sites that share that they deal with the same thing I do: I can look people in the eye when they’re talking, but I stutter, stammer, and lose my train of thought when I have to look people in the eyes to talk. I find it very distracting. Even when I started taking anxiety medication, I still felt thrown off my track when I push myself to look people in the eyes while I talk. Then I remembered in acting classes, characters who “cheat”/turn out to face the audience more and to not look the other character in the eyes, because staring at the person while talking is not interesting. We were directed to occasionally look at them. I also learned that by talking while doing other things that face the audience is more interesting. I’ve also observed other people when they have intense conversations, how they’ll look around while they’re talking as if they are visualizing it in their head (that’s exactly what I do) and they are fascinating to watch. I also noticed that when I am looking at the other person talking, that I’m also watching their lips as if I’m lip reading. I have a deaf friend and most of the time I can read her lips when she (without sound) talks slow and clear.

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