Eye contact matters.

I think you can feel seen and known and loved when someone really looks you in the eye.

A recent article in the New York Times titled, “Pssst. Look Over Here” by Kate Murphy, explores the importance of eye contact.

“Only actual eye contact fully activates those parts of the brain that allow us to more acutely and accurately process another person’s feelings and intentions. Think of it as a cognitive jump-start that occurs whenever you lock eyes with another person, whether in front of you or across a crowded room. Even the brains of legally blind people have shown to light up when someone looks them in the eye. It’s sort of primal awareness and why you sometimes feel someone is looking at you before you turn and see them. This has obvious evolutionary benefits for detecting and discerning potential mates and predators.”

As a couples therapist this is particularly significant. When couples are in distress they often don’t look at each other. It can be a slow process to get a couple to re-engage with each other in a loving way. I have found a helpful part of that process can be for them to look one another in they eye. Often an individual will say something particularly powerful or meaningful to me, but when they say it to their partner it has a whole different feeling. Then the connection is holding the words and it can be really transformational. I highly recommend it!

“A richer mode of communication is possible right after eye contact,” Dr. Senju said. “It amplifies your ability to compute all the signals so you are able to read the other persons brain.” In other words, eye contact makes us more socially aware and empathetic. It allows us to make sense of our relationships and social orientation. So avoiding eye contact out of fear or insecurity, or breaking eye contact to text, check email or play candy crush degrades your social facility and emotional intelligence.”

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