It was a Saturday morning when it hit me.
I stopped to buy petrol and got back in my car - then realised I’d gone through the whole process of walking into the service station to pay, tapping my credit card and walking out, without even acknowledging there was a person standing behind the counter.
I was shocked at my own behaviour. It made me consider how many other times I might have sailed straight past someone working at a supermarket or hotel reception without looking at them.
Making good eye contact whenever we interact sounds so obvious it’s easy to forget. Researchers tell us that to make a solid connection with someone, we need to lock eyes with them for seven to ten seconds.
I don’t have scientific data on this, but I’m beginning to think eye contact is a dying thing in our society. Would you agree? We’ve become so focused on our phones and other devices that it’s now socially acceptable to walk down the street with your head buried in a screen, expecting people to get out of the way so you don’t crash into them.
We chuckle to ourselves when we see couples in restaurants sitting across from each other, heads bowed to their individual phones - but there’s a good chance we do exactly the same with our friends.
We perform financial transactions by interacting with yet more screens, excluding any human element from the experience.
In our highly connected world, we’ve become even more disconnected.
Failing to make healthy eye contact when you communicate means you’re missing opportunities to build real connections. You might also come across as hesitant, evasive or downright untrustworthy.
Those connections are what drive our relationships - which in turn can make all the difference to our career prospects, business growth and personal wellbeing.
I’ve set myself a challenge to deliberately make strong (as opposed to creepy) eye contact with anyone in a service role - and everyone else, for that matter - and I’ve seen very specific results.
Without intending to I’ve received upgrades, free Wi-Fi and other unexpected bonuses. At the very least, I’ve bathed in the most amazingly warm smiles and greetings in return. And the great thing is, none of this has cost me a cent or taken up any extra time.
If looking people in the eye is becoming old fashioned, I urge you to join me in making it a recycled trend. Look into someone’s pupils today and smile at them as you communicate.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the difference it makes for you.