Fact: You are connected through the most powerful line of connection that has no basis in technology.
Recently, students applying to universities were caught off-guard when their application got rejected. Despite having the highest grades and doing all the necessary community work, leadership training and achieving several other impressive accomplishments, they were dumbfounded when they were turned away from prestigious universities. Why you ask? The interviewer was not impressed with the fact that those highly intelligent and innovative students could not look him in the eye while having a conversation.
To be fair, these kids were born into the age of technology, where keeping your eye on your gadget is the norm and not the exception. Where it’s acceptable to sit on a table full of people and not be or feel out of place when they spend most of that time looking down at a gadget as opposed to looking at each other.
Having conversations is an everyday occurrence – talking to shopkeepers, friends, family, colleagues; everybody can have a conversation. But it might be interesting for you to start noticing during your own conversations if you or the person you are speaking to can hold eye contact for the most part of the conversation. You might be surprised to notice that very few people can hold eye contact for an extended period of time. After a mere few seconds, they start looking around or glancing down at their phone.
Eye Contact – The Basic Human Trait
Could this have anything to do with childhood?
It appears that the simplest and most basic human connection is the eye contact, has been forgotten or deemed unimportant in this day and age. However, eye contact has a huge impact right from birth.
Studies have shown that newborns show a preference for faces that make eye contact as opposed to faces with averted gazes. Babies and older children feel secure and reassured when you have eye contact with them. They feel grounded, calm and connected. Feeling connected to other people is a human necessity and happily, you do not need WiFi, a gadget or anything fancy except your eyes.
A study in the US found that making eye contact is the most powerful mode of establishing a communicative link between humans. The exceptionally early sensitivity to mutual gaze demonstrated in these studies is arguably the major foundation for the later development of social skills.
In experiments on newborns, infants showed a drop in cortisol levels when they were stroked by a caregiver who rocked them, made eye contact, and spoke soothingly. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress. It seems the simple act of affectionate and loving eye contact has the substantial effect of lowering the levels of the stress hormone in infants.
The importance of eye contact is well studied and understood. So how has it become an almost non-existent trait?
How To Reconnect?
We all lead busy lives and are more often than not distracted by our phones with news, social media, messaging and emails; it can be very easy to be in mid-conversation with someone, whether a child or adult, break eye contact and not reconnect for a while. Parent’s and children’s attention spans are at an all-time low. According to a study by Microsoft, humans now have shorter attention spans than a goldfish because of technology. People always seem to be looking down at one gadget or another.
Teaching your child eye contact is an essential social and life skill. It promotes emotional intelligence and learning how to pick up on social and emotional cues from other people. The lack of this very human trait makes for oblivious adults.
The key here is to make eye contact with your children right from the very beginning. Take a few minutes throughout the day to have a good loving and affectionate gaze into their eyes. This will help them grow and connect with people on a whole different level.