The Importance of Eye Contact

The Importance Of Eye Contact

Taking a deeper look at a fundamental component of having quality, in-person exchanges.

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Nowadays, having a conversation with anyone not being paid to or paying to talk to you has become a fight of man versus machine, man versus nature, or mere man versus mind. Whether the spoken-to individual is answering a text or email, is looking around at passing scenery, or simply has his or her mind wandering aimlessly, I have found that it has become an increasingly difficult task to get others to not only hear what one is saying but to actually listen. The key to ridding in-person conversations of the ubiquitous "Uh huh," or repetitive "Yeah?" is rehabilitating, as a culture, the long-lost art of making eye contact.

In many parts of the world, eye contact is considered disrespectful or even "too intense" for regular day-to-day discussions. For example, in China, eye contact is made as a sign of disrespect, to indicate an individual is angry or is meant to challenge another. It is appropriate for an individual of higher authority to make eye contact with a subordinate, but never the other way around. Similarly, in Japan, children are taught to carry a "soft gaze" toward another individual by looking at his or her neck and always avoiding the eyes, so as to not appear rude while also having one's attention directed toward that person. In the United States and much of the West, however, being able to maintain strong eye contact is just as—if not more—important than having a firm handshake, both for professional and personal situations, yet has been diminished to near extinction by generations of people too caught up in listening to respond rather than listening to understand.

Eye contact, although it can sometimes be too intense or intimidating for a given situation, conveys so much more than just one's attention. As the adage goes, "The eyes are the windows to the soul," because they show emotion, interest or lack thereof, the way others are impacted by what is being said, flickers of thought, intention, personability, and respect. Intense, unbroken eye contact can signify one's desire to persuade, or can indicate profound interest or, conversely, immense dislike for an individual or for the conversation in general, while softer, friendly eye contact can reveal one's positive feelings toward another, and can add a layer of trust and warmth to both work-related and friendly exchanges.

Among men and women, young and old, sustaining eye contact after initial introductions has become a rarity, but especially among young adults engaging with one another. It was not until I was on my first date with my current boyfriend, who made sure to maintain eye contact through each story I told and memory we laughed about, that I was able to differentiate between past exchanges with my peers and the one I was having at that moment. Few things are more disheartening than looking across the space between another individual and I and finding that he or she is mentally elsewhere, so being made to feel like what I was saying mattered, was interesting, or at least was worthy of undivided attention not only made the other person more appealing to me, but also significantly improved the quality of the interaction as a whole.

It has been found that those who do not make eye contact with others do so for a variety of reasons. Most often, an individual may be hiding something or masking his or her true feelings, but it was also studied that eye contact is avoided more when an individual makes a sarcastic comment rather than a sincere one because of the indirect, joking nature of what may be passive-aggression. The most common reason for a lack of eye contact, however, is based in insecurity, as people do not want others looking too closely at him or her so as to not see a lack of or minimal self-confidence.

Whether one chooses to believe the "windows to the soul" expression or not, it is apparent that, if anything, one's eyes do reveal more about one's character and an internal state of being than almost any other physical attribute. Individuals who are kind, compassionate, genuine, and who lead lives of integrity have somewhat of a radiant glimmer or sparkle in their eyes, while those who maintain blank, lifeless expressions are almost always commensurately (and unfortunately) severely conflicted inside as well.

As a culture, we must consciously decide to no longer fear the judgments or gazes of others, regardless of the level of authority, age, familiarity, or status. The more we choose to accept ourselves and work on our self-confidence and in-person communication skills, while also being open to others, the easier it will be to push self-created discomfort and awkwardness aside, and look what may be one of many people's greatest fears in the eye, without hesitation and maybe even with a little conviction, too.

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10 Abnormally Normal Things About College

Some stuff just doesn't fly in the real world.
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College is a weird, weird place. For whatever reason, the young adults who are supposed to be cultivating their minds with all of the worldly knowledge available to them, seem to get away with quite a bit using the justification "it's college." Even the best students live abnormally while on the alien planet that is a university. So, while to us college students it may just seem like another day, here are ten things that are only normal in college.

1. Straight up theft.

In the future, if I walk into my forty-something-year-old neighbor's home and see a collection of stolen signs, stuff from the local restaurant, and property from the construction site down the road, I would definitely be concerned about the character of my neighbor. However, in college, people proudly display campus signs, traffic cones, or dining hall napkin dispensers that they have impressively commandeered - it's a cheap decoration and a great conversation starter.

2. All-nighters.

Maybe with the exception of parents of little babies, very few people willingly stay up for close to 24 hours on end. In the real world, if a friend came to you and said that they literally did not sleep the previous night, it's completely logical to be worried. On the other hand, when a friend in college says that he was up all night you laugh a little, give him an understanding pat on the back, and walk with him to the coffee line.

3. Atrocious eating habits.

Sometimes you don't have time to eat. Sometimes you order pizza at 2 in the morning. Sometimes you eat three dinners. Sometimes you diet. All I can say, is thank goodness that our metabolisms are decently high at this age.

4. Breaking and entering.

In high school, you hopefully knew everyone who entered your home. After college, hopefully, that's still the case. However, when you live in the middle of thousands of bored college students, people knock at your door, walk into parties, cut through your yard, and stop by without invitation or hesitation. It keeps life fun, but still not normal.

5. Calling mom when stuff goes down.

I really doubt a time will ever come that I don't need to call my mom for guidance on how to do something. But, hopefully the frequency of those calls with go down a little bit post-graduation. Maybe after four years of doing it on my own, I'll know how to fill out government forms, cook real dinners, and get stains out. But for now, I'm going to keep calling while I still can without seeming totally pathetic.

6. Being intoxicated at weird times.

Drunk at noon on a Friday is the quintessence of an alcoholic at any time - unless it's college. Not that this is necessarily a good thing, and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone, but there aren't many other places where people would instantly assume someone is intoxicated if they're acting even a little weird. I've even seen people drink in the library....

7. The messed up dating scene.



There are people who meet the love of their life at college and live happily ever after. They are people who meet the supposed love of their life at college and never talk to them again after Sunday. There are people who use Tinder. Hormones are high, freedom is bountiful, and football players are cute - what else needs to be said?

8. A warped sense of time.

The career I'm pursuing will require me to be at work by 7 am, five days a week. I am fully aware of this. Now, will I enroll in an 8 am next semester? Absolutely not - I'm not a demon. In college, nights often start at 10 p.m., dinners are eaten at 4, and mornings can begin anywhere from 8 to 2. We don't get that whole 9-5 idea.

9. Costumes... for no apparent reason.

High schoolers have a dress code. Adults have dignity. College students have fun. Here, people will wear a corn costume to get on ESPN, a fanny pack to get into a fraternity, or a tutu to match a theme party. Is it actually a weird thing, though? No one even blinks an eye.

10. Insanely close friends.

Name another point in your life when you live with your friends, study with your friends, drive with your friends, eat with your friends, go out with your friends, and even grocery shop with your friends. I'll wait. At college, it's easy for friends to seem like family because you're with them constantly. Love it or hate it, it's weird about college.

So, enjoy this weirdness while you can - it won't last forever!


ALSO SEE:

Uncensored Roommate Confessions!

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Kupfer

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Mexican Parties Are The Best Parties, Change My Mind (You Can't)

We just have the best parties. Plain and simple.

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The booze. The music. The familiar and unfamiliar faces. The late nights. The smiles and laughs.

This is literally all you need to have a good party. However, it can have a different meaning if you're Mexican and are constantly going to these parties. If you don't know why Mexican parties are the best, then I'll give you the rundown.

1. We do NOT RSVP.

Whether it's a big party or a small gathering, RSVP's do not matter. We send them out to be considerate and don't expect you to actually respond to it. If you do and decide to bring more people, then go for it. We have enough plates of food for everyone.

2. No party is too small.

We like to party, and we like to have people around. Yes, sometimes our parties are like 200+ and no, that is not too much. You have to invite your tía and her family who have their own families of their own and then they invite their friends and family, which is okay. Bring whoever you want as long as they are up for a good time.

3. There will be booze...lots of it.

ALWAYS. There will always be alcohol whether you just want to drink to relax after a long week or if you want to get drunk because you just broke up with your boyfriend. At Mexican parties, there will probably be more alcohol than actual soda and water. Just don't be an angry drunk, no one likes those drunks.

4. The kids will be happy.

If you have kids, this is your couple of hours you actually forget that you have kids. With everyone's little cousins and kids, your own kid will make friends and leave you alone the whole party. You might even go the whole party without knowing where your kid is or what they are doing.

5. You MUST say hi to everyone.

There is no excuse. Whether you know them or you don't, you greet everyone who arrived before you. It's simple manners and extremely crucial at Mexican parties like this. It doesn't matter if there are 200+ people there, you better be saying hi to everyone.

6. The party never truly ends.

We don't have an end time for parties, especially those that are hosted in houses. Before you know it, it's 2:30 a.m. and you are all just sitting there recounting funny stories and laughing so much your stomach starts to hurt. But I think that's one of the best parts of it.

7. We do it all over again the next day.

Yup, you read that right. Even if you went home at 3 a.m., you better be there for the recalentado the next day and get ready to feast on leftover and cure your hangover.

8. You are surrounded by the people you love.

This one is the most important for me because now that I live away from home for school, every family party is one of the few times I get to see everyone and nothing warms my heart more than seeing everyone I love gathered in one place. We get to laugh, share funny stories, and make memories that I am beginning to treasure a lot more.

If you have never gone to a Mexican party, then you are sure missing out. But also let me know so I can invite you to the next one.

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