Today I sat on the tube opposite a lovely 3 year old girl. She smiled at me and then continuously
fixed her eyes on my face for about 2 minutes. Never once did she look away. This led me to
Why can this little girl look at a stranger with the force of power, courage and unwavering
determination. Whereas the majority of the adults on the tube constantly avert eye contact.
One of the factors might be because she hasn’t yet been taught that in our society it has been
said that staring is intrusive and rude. Whereas in India staring is normal and practised by
all, without apology.
As a child I was taught not to stare, my innocence of wonder and curiosity was squashed and I
learnt that something was wrong to look at people for a long period of time.
Another factor for childrens steadfast gaze is that language has not fully formed, therefore they
don’t have the monologue that adults have such as, “this is scary, look away, I don’t want to them
to see me staring, it is scary to connect with a stranger”.
It is language that keeps us from connecting with other people.
So how does this relate to speaking?
As a speaker it is paramount that you have eye contact with the audience.
– DO NOT look above their heads as I have heard many times.
– DO NOT look at people’s forehead as you think they might not notice.
– DO NOT sweep erratically from side to side with your eyes, never connecting intimately with anyone.
The tube is a great example of this. Have you ever caught someone’s and immediacy you both
look away instantly. Then you look back again briefly to see if they have looked back. Then both
your eyes meet and you to make that choice, should you:
a) repeat the strange ritual of looking away and then back again and not connecting
b) keep their gaze and see who relents first
c) smile, hold gaze a second longer for connection and then look away
I prefer the latter as there is something delicious about just connecting through the eyes.
One course I attended had you stand about 1 meter away from a partner and then look into
their eyes for 5 minutes non stop.
In the room you could hear some people laugh out of awkwardness, others smiled at the other
person, a few just gazed straight faced and some in the distance could be heard crying.
I was one of the people who cried. I cried because I really saw who was standing right in
front of me. I cried because I felt undulated love for this person. I cried because I was one
with them. They were me and I was them, there was no distance. Time and space stood still.
Perhaps try the exercise with one of your friends (not your partner as you most probably are very
comfortable with them already) and see how it feels. See if you can get to experience the closeness,
that there is nothing between you and the other person. A wide open clear space.
This for me is the ultimate state to be in when your on the stage.
One of connection, love and being one.
And next time you are on the tube, how about looking at the people straight in the eye,
hold their gaze and smile.