One of the most impacting and emotional experiences of my life happened a long time ago in a faraway land called Texas.
At the time, I was doing a significant amount of work in connection with helping others who had been touched by addiction, both users and family members. As part of an intensive two-day weekend retreat focusing on authentic communication and therapeutic techniques, near the end of the second day, we were paired with another person and asked to perform a deceptively simple exercise. In turn, we would stand facing one another and hold hands, then establish eye contact and, without breaking eye contact, each share some positive thoughts we had observed or learned about the other during the retreat. Often our comments were of the “You are a unique and loved child of God” variety along with specific descriptions of how we had brought value to the event.
It was that “without breaking eye contact” part which made this an incredibly emotive and difficult exercise for most of us. I had to phsyically resist strong repeated urges to look away, not so much as I was talking, but while I was listening. I will freely admit crying. My background did not prepare me to hear such direct and honest positivity.
Here are some ruminations on the power of sight from various sources to stimulate your thinking.
“I looked at God and He looked at me, and we were one forever.” C. H. Spurgeon
“I see you.” repeated line in the movie Avatar (said by one character to another to indicate love)
“The eyes are the window to the soul.” (various sources)
“The eyes not only look, but are looked at.” (James J. Gibson and Anne D. Pick)
Even in our more sedate world of training, teaching, and group facilitation, we understand the value and power of eye contact. As one of my favorite presentation experts says, “Eye connection means spending time with each person so that person feels like you’re just talking to them.” (Olivia Mitchell)
When have you experienced this power of direct eye contact?
What observations do you have regarding how this power is best used?