From almost the day we were born, our source of contact with mother and caregivers is touch and eye contact. Touch, of course, is total body sensation, while eye contact is focus for which newborns need a couple of weeks to develop. A newborn has very small pupils to dampen bright light till they get used to it within a week or so, while focus is adequate within the first month; eye development continues through the first three months, which are considered fetal time, since birth at 9 months is a bit premature.
Needless to say, eye contact is our most important sense of communicating, for it’s the primary means of recognizing one another and as humans, we are the only primates with white eyes that draw attention instantly. Eye contact stimulates relationships and we most importantly trace eye movement of others to understand another’s gaze, whether to trust or not. Eye contact even helps us to remember what was shared in a conversation, because it focuses attention on the person speaking and what’s being said. Looking away is distracting from what the other says. Eye gazing can be a source of lots of information.
With our coronavirus directive of social distancing, we have a challenge of intimacy and information. Eye contact actually stimulates our self-awareness, not just of our bodily appearance but of our behavior on display in front of others. It’s not merely being self-conscious but aware of our own thoughts as if another can guess or see what I am thinking or feeling as in reading my mind; this arouses in us a self-check on the impression we are making on the other person. This is not a bad thing to wonder how I am a public figure. This can be my personal gift to others, but certainly not God’s gift to humanity.
And there’s nothing wrong with being attractive to others or being attracted to them or a specific person. Eye contact opens people to like / love one another, especially if it is a sustained regard. Add a smile to the gaze, you have warmth. Such gazes might not be mutual; if conversation follows, this could be verified one way or the other. The bottom line is that eye contact makes us honest and enriched by the relationship.
Eye contact is the best expression of our body language even in social distancing. In fact, eye contact is the best body language we can use in a conversation. Our eyes can speak louder than the words we use; we communicate best with our eyes; our eyes are “the windows of our soul”. It is with our eyes that we show another how much we are listening and paying attention to the person speaking.
With social distancing, we presume there is conversation. Looking at each other in conversation is important as expressed in the saying: “Eyes are a reflection of one’s inner self.” Looking at one another is part of conversation whatever the tone on the exchange: warm regard, irritation of comments, distrust in lack of truth, concern, or disinterest. We reveal our inner emotions with our eyes. When conversation is sincere, we reflect our ease of sentiments as the topic flows smoothly between the couple engaged.
And if a face-mask is present, then eye contact can even express a smile by the twinkle of the eyes. Our eyes relate to what the conversation is about. We only hope that our eye sight is good enough to catch the dynamics of eye contact at the safe six feet of separation.