Two weeks ago, I assisted at a workshop called The Mastery of Self Expression.
One of the main themes of the workshop is connecting with others. At one point, Larry Gilman (the facilitator) spoke about how quickly we look away when we pass people on the street.
The fact that few people say hello when they pass by each other in a big city like Toronto has always got me. But this was a new idea: to say hello and keep eye contact. This morning I tried it.
It’s a grey day, I was returning home with my dog, and a woman was walking towards us. She looked tough, even a little mean (my assumptions), and seemed focused on getting where she was going. But I caught her eyes, said good morning, smiled, and stayed there.
And an amazing thing happened.
In the moment that our eyes met and held, she smiled back and her whole being transformed. The tough, mean exterior I had imagined vanished and for a split second, I saw her; the essence of who she is. It felt amazing.
Eye contact is not a sign of respect everywhere – or in a multicultural city like Toronto, for everyone – but where and when it is, I encourage you to try it. With strangers and colleagues and people you know well. You may be surprised by how little you actually do it. And even more surprised by what happens when you do.
copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder