The eye contact problem.

Everything is to do with the eyes. And that’s not just me writing on a personal note.
There’s the saying “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Derren Brown had a wonderful segment in one of his shows about how a liar gives themselves away. (It’s in the eyes!) Specsavers even had an advert featuring a giant eye.
As someone with Aspergers, I have a problem with eye contact. (On another ‘eye’ note-I also wear glasses.)
Eye contact is something that I have struggled with for a very long time. For instance, I NEVER understood why a teacher I had use to say “You clearly aren’t listening, because you aren’t looking at me!” (They would then gauge eye-contact, without blinking, and not letting your line of sight wonder away.)
Eye contact: I don’t make it well, and it’s one of my spectrum characteristics. I can make it, but not for very long. I also do not know when is the right time to look away, or wench is too long to look. It also feels, if someone is deliberately trying to hold my eye for longer, that it’s searing into the back of my skull. It is invasive if for too long.
Because.. eye contact is personal. And to keep eye contact has a whole host of social meaning I’m to privy to. (Are you being suggestive, intimate, trying to determine if I am guilty of some dirty trick, or trying to assert dominance?)
Whenever I am at an event, or even networking, I try to stand sideways to someone, on the pretence I can hear them better. (Well, it’s true. And I also don’t have to look them in the eye.) But if I do have to look them in the eye… I look at the top of the nose, a tactic I was taught at fifteen. Just between the eyebrows, before the eyes, near the forehead.
As a journalist, one thing I learnt to pick up on is the eyes. Are you interviewing someone? Maintaining excessive eye contact could suggest guilt that they are trying to cover up, or an air of arrogance/confidence. A lack of it could suggest nervous, a curiosity about the surrounding environment, or disinterest.
But if someone on spectrum is with you, please don’t try to force eye contact deliberately. Don’t try to pretend “they are ‘normal'” by doing it, or trying to gauge a response. It’s a trait that some people on spectrum have, after all. It’s not going away with a click of the fingers.

9 Comments

  1. January 24, 2018 / 2:53 pm

    You’re not the only one with eye contact issues. I also struggle with keeping eye contact. I honestly don’t even know why. Maybe it’s because it’s personal like you said. I honestly think it’s because I let my eyes wander and look at my surroundings, and it’s a terrible habit I’ve picked up. It’s something I’m working on though! Great post Lydia xxx
    Melina
    (ps: I’m glad you have comments up again xxx)

    • January 26, 2018 / 3:17 pm

      Ah, comments are back on because for some posts it seemed appropriate to turn them off. (Due to a possibility of trolling..) But if eye contact is altered, it could mean you’re more observant-rather than locking eye contact all the time..

  2. January 24, 2018 / 5:03 pm

    This is something I’ve struggled with over the years. I don’t know about you but I find it quite depressing when people say you can never trust someone who doesn’t look you in the eyes. I suppose this is ignorance on their part, but it still rankles. Anyhow, these days I tend to glance at someone periodically and for a few seconds each time when I am talking. When they speak, I concentrate on their foreheads! 😃

    • January 26, 2018 / 3:15 pm

      What I found really interesting is that lack of eye contact is seen as a sign of guilt; it can be, however it annoys me when this is the default label for someone on spectrum. (Because it isn’t always like that!)

  3. January 24, 2018 / 11:00 pm

    I have spent a lifetime trying to make eye contact while I spoke to someone because that was the ‘normal’ thing to do. Now that I know I’m autistic I understand why I couldn’t do it and now cut myself the slack to look wherever I need to. I can’t help it anyway. Being so aware of what we can’t do (but are expected to) is a recipe for discouragement, isn’t it?
    I like your conversation standing sideways idea. I’m going to have to try this!

    • January 26, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      Good luck trying it; it is a recipe for not being at all encouraging, and sometimes I wish I could change that.

  4. January 25, 2018 / 10:30 pm

    Eye contact is a tough one isn’t it. I do make eye contact with people, but it’s all thought out. I remind myself to do it and then I reach a point where I can’t do it anymore and I have to look away. Then I have to consider when to look back and because I am doing that, I am less engaged in the conversation and sometimes miss things.

    • January 26, 2018 / 3:12 pm

      Eye contact is tough, but I think that listening is the more important thing, rather than appearances.

  5. February 16, 2018 / 12:11 am

    It’s interesting that it’s assumed you’re not listening. I’d like to think there is more education around asd now. Thanks to open and honest people like yourself!

Leave a Reply