” Look Me Straight in the Eyes” …

Dear Reader:

Did you know that eye contact is central to the human experience? Humans are the only primates with white eyes who are drawn to eye contact from infancy?

Infants follow parental eyes rather than head motions. They have been “seeing” since they were in the womb… vision is blurry but shapes and feelings draw little ones to love.

Eye contact is the most powerful way to make another person feel recognized, understood, and validated. Haven’t we seen and heard the sadness in troubled youth who admit that they never felt like anyone ever ” saw ” them… they were just invisible.

Looking someone in the eyes while conversing or addressing them deepens relationships and is perceived as a powerful character trait. Deeply rooted in our DNA … eye contact with our cavemen ancestors-making eye contact could mean the difference between life and death. They saw themselves through others’ eyes and that produced self-awareness … long before before mirrors did.

” Eye contact” was coined in the early 1960’s but was a term that came about from the West that signified this act as a meaningful and important sign of confidence and respect… eye contact and a handshake sealed many a business dealing… especially a loan on a promise of character.

In my family… we were taught as children to look adults in the eyes in conversations… it showed respect and good breeding. So mother had little tolerance for any adult who didn’t look you in the eyes during an introduction.

Ben got the backlash of this when the new young track coach in high school brought him home from practice to get mother to sign a permission slip for him to stay overnight in a hotel with the other competitors for the state track meet in Columbia.

Mother wouldn’t sign it until she met the coach and ” sized” him up. Apparently the young coach was nervous, mumbled through the introduction and never once looked mother in the eye while talking.

That was it… she didn’t sign it… the buses were leaving the next morning and all night Ben begged mother to let him go. He packed his bag-called the coach and explained the problem… one bus came by the house and the nervous coach managed to make eye contact with mother-she finally gave her permission and a very relieved coach and Ben left for Columbia-Ben placed second in one event and first in another.

Mother always re-told that story on the importance of looking people straight in the eyes to show good faith and most importantly character. The memory always ended with mother’s final comment…” I gave in because I figured that poor boy ( the coach) didn’t have a mama to teach this to him.”

So until tomorrow… Mother was a ” Shoulders back, look everyone in the eyes while talking” kind of mom. These two lessons have proved invaluable throughout my life. Thanks mom!

Dickens brought the turkey to the holidays in 1843 with the Christmas Carol. His Thanks giving message:

” Reflect upon your present blessings… of which every man has plenty… not on your misfortunes… of which all men have some.” ( Charles Dickens)

Today is my favorite day… Winnie the Pooh

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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1 Response to ” Look Me Straight in the Eyes” …

  1. Gin-g Edwards says:

    Amen …. I was taught the same thing….love it!


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