We all know quiet people, loud and outgoing individuals and the in between too. The quiet ones envy the confident, the shy bask in the lack of spotlight being consumed by those who love it and the loud often feel frustrated on the odd occasion they just want to have a quiet day.
I, however, am a bit of both. I love to talk, I love to have fun and to speak to as many as I can. I’m friendly and approachable – so I’ve been told. My problem? I just can’t maintain that sought after eye contact when talking. Why can’t I? The answer isn’t as simple as ‘I don’t know’. I’ve tried various techniques, ranging from the small to the extreme. None have worked so far. Personally I dislike it.
I worry whilst I talk, mainly about what the other person is thinking of me. I’ve read articles claiming a lack of eye contact makes someone appear untrustworthy, vulnerable, weak and just rude to some. When I try to make eye contact for an extended period of time my mind races, my heart rate increases and I can’t concentrate or engage nearly as well as when I just do what I do. Anxiety kicks in straight away – ‘what are they looking at?’ -‘who’s listening to this?’ – ‘did I say something wrong?’. I feel my face heat up slowly and that increases the anxiety. I want to apologise, to explain, to make up for my lack of eye contact but I can’t due to the risk of bringing unwanted attention to it. To my weakness.
Talk to me, allow me to engage and to respond and let me think as I do it. Ignore the eye contact if you can and I will gain confidence to slowly maintain it. Family and friends, it makes no difference when it comes to this. I have quiet days, outgoing days and silly moments. It’s who I am. I reflect, worry and replay situations in my head. Did I say ‘good morning’ in the right tone? Was my smile clear enough to convey a happy response to the other person? Little things, seemingly insignificant acts or moments can turn into panics. I have moments where I appear confident but deep down I’m suppressing that anxiety, that worry that someone in the room is wondering why I’m not looking into their eyes or why I look to the side when I talk quite often. I run my fingers through my hair, play with my watch or spin a pen to distract myself. A trick. I’m not wanting to seem uninterested, in fact, I want to concentrate so I can have a meaningful engagement with you.
Eye contact isn’t always a negative when the reasons behind not maintaining it can be explained, even to some degree.