Friday, June 1, 2012

The Uncomfortable Stare

I have been reading quite a bit lately about women. How many failures must I have before I know what I am doing? I am trying to understand their motivations and communication strategies better. I am sure to spill generalizations left and right so I apologize if the person that I describe is not any woman that you know. In fact, since I typically abhor generalizations I will guarantee that this does not describe all of the women that you know. Yet I must develop my research using some method to group test subjects.

In my interactions with women the last month or so I have noticed, because I first read about it, that women stare incredibly intensely! Almost all of them do, from teenage girls to middle age engineers to octogenarian women. I knew before the research that I was not the best with eye to eye contact when I am speaking, but as a researcher the last month I have been able to better examine the topic. I am terrible with eye to eye contact! Just about every woman that I talk to regularly would beat me in an unofficial staring contest. (If you make it competitive a different side of me is brought out, the side that wants to win.) Their stares are so powerful!

I feel that when you look into the pupil of another person's eye you are looking into him or her. Since you are actually looking inside of his or her eyeball it is a valid perspective. Anyway, women, in a group of women, will often sit in a tight circle looking into each other's eyes. Men will typically sit in a loose circle looking around the room. No lie, I went to lunch recently with a couple of male coworkers and the conversation (as well as nonverbal communication) was nearly entirely directed away from our table.

I am not sure how men and women reach these two dichotomies of communal communication. My research is still in progress. Yet time and again I see it. In fact, I am watching it right now in a coffee shop, Monks in Dubuque for the record. Both a group of men and a group of women.

The thing about staring, or looking at someone in his or her eyes for any length of time, at least to me, is that there is a vulnerability. When someone stares at me for a length of time I will feel that person knowing that I don't know everything. The longer she or her stares the more flaws in my logic I feel she or he knows. It is uncomfortable because I have many flaws. It is strange, when I am taking the stare of another I feel as time passes that I should admit my various faults, relevant to the topic or not.

Tying this to the theme of the blog, I am learning to maintain eye contact longer in a conversation. Woman, or man, looking into another person's eyes gives the relationship more depth. It makes the conversation more serious. Hopefully I can do a better job in the future so that I can strengthen my relationships. I have known that eye contact is powerful for a long time, yet this little experiment showed me even more how significant a role it is in communication.

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