Wednesday, August 29, 2012
I did an interesting experiment today as I was traveling home from Atlanta. I wanted to see how often I could make strangers smile by making eye contact with them and smiling. I had some fascinating observations.
The first thing I noticed is how few people actually make eye contact with strangers. Some keep their eyes down or focused straight ahead, never really looking at others - kind of like many people do in an elevator. Today I tried to look at each person I was passing. But not just look at them as an object to be observed; rather, to look into their eyes. Some people acknowledged this and met my eyes, while others seemed to avert theirs.
When I was really able to connect with someone's eyes and then smile at them, it most often elicited a smile back. It got me thinking about the power of eye contact and smiles. We probably have all had the experience that when we smile, we feel happier, even if we were in a bad mood before. Well what if everyone smiled at each other, causing more people to smile as a result? Wouldn't that likely cause more happiness, and in turn, more kindness? I suspect it would.
It was also fascinating to notice and to contemplate the way in which we can actually connect with people without ever touching them physically or even talking to them. Simply by making eye contact, it's like a bond was created. Perhaps this is why some people avert their eyes to avoid that contact. Perhaps they're afraid of the intimacy that is somehow created with a stranger. It never occurred to be before just how powerful a tool our eyes are.