I had an entire conversation with someone recently without ever looking them in the eye. It was a real interaction. Like face to face. And I didn’t even look at them. Sounds weird, right? But the weirder thing is it felt normal—almost.
I was at the grocery store scanning the stocked shelves over an employee’s shoulder as I asked her, “Do you guys have [insert obscure recipe ingredient] here?” I’m squinting at the shelves now reading labels over her head. You know how it is—the moment you ask for help, you find what you need. I was sure that was about to happen.
“No, ma’am we don’t.”
“Oh, okay. Never mind then,” I said and turned to leave. Then I stopped, realizing I was about to walk away without ever looking directly at the human who had just helped me. Not cool. I looked back and caught her eye as I said a quick, “Thank you!”
It was a weak attempt, but the whole thing made me think. How many times had I done that? Why is it so easy to talk at people instead of taking a second to look them in the eye and connect?
Personal connection is incredibly important in marketing. Still, we live in a world where we have so many virtual exchanges—text, email, social media—that having a conversation without looking at someone’s face feels perfectly natural. Most days, my phone gets more eye contact than my husband, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who can say that. This is the world we live in.
Virtual communication is efficient, even essential, especially at a marketing agency like Jackson. It expands business opportunities and makes it possible to connect with people anywhere, anytime. But for all the advantages of connecting virtually, there is simply no substitute for good old fashioned eye contact. The eyes are the window to the soul, you know. Shakespeare said so.
I’m from the North where you get cussed out if you look at someone half a second too long, so I’ll be the first to admit eye contact can get weird sometimes. Still, I have a few good reasons to look people in the eye every now and then—at the grocery store, at work, wherever.
1. Things Actually Get Interesting
You know how sometimes people say something, and their eyes say the opposite? That’s your opening—your chance to get to the bottom of what they’re really trying to say. I love those moments. It makes for way more interesting conversations. But you gotta watch the eyes or you’ll miss it.
2. You Might Not Have to Talk as Much
People typically talk more when you’re looking at them. It’s because they feel like you’re listening. Like maybe you actually care what they have to say. Lack of eye contact is a signal that you’re trying to get out of the conversation. So, unless you actually are, maintain eye contact. You’ll have a better interaction because your eyes aren’t dancing around like you have somewhere else to be.
3. The Golden Rule
Making eye contact is one of the simplest things we can do to show people they matter. It’s the Golden Rule in action because—let’s be real—who doesn’t want to be listened to in return? Jackson is founded on the Golden Rule. We strive to practice it with our clients and each other. At the end of the day, it’s a value that results in better relationships and better work.
Give it a shot. Take the opportunities you’re given to see people, connect, relate and listen. See where it takes you. That’s how we roll around here, and it’s working out pretty well for us.