Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Stare - II

(this post is in continuation to "The Stare" posted earlier) took some doing, but I found I could relax and hold the glance if I simply stopped working to figure out what the other person was thinking. I had to force myself to stop reading every twitch, every sideways glance, every brush of the hair. When I walked in the door, when I stuck out my hand, when I said "Hi?" I turned my gaze toward the pupil of the person's eye. It really was a process of searching it out, looking at the black of the eye only, holding my glance there, and waiting until the eye color registered in my periphery.

It worked, too. Females could not hold my glance longer; men moved faster. This worked with colleagues. With friends. Even with Auto-drivers, whom I looked at in their rearview mirrors. I began to gain better control over these transactions by searching out their eyes. It took only a few seconds, but I could plainly see what they were looking for. Here is what I saw: No matter how much attention they appeared to be giving me, no matter how slowly they spoke or how long they paused after greeting me, it was evident that these people were initially treating me like every other guy who walked in off the street, trying to figure me out and see how fast they could get me what I wanted before moving on.

The eye contact changed all that. You realize you have X-ray vision. You had the right blade. With my eyes, I calmed them, slowed them down, and did so without knocking them over or humiliating them. I used my eyes to upset the indifference of their routines and simply register my presence. It worked every time. They didn't know me, but then, suddenly, it seemed they did. I did not need to bargain much. The doorman perked up when I arrived at the dad’s office and stood up straighter when I walked out.

I tried it with people who see me all the time. The guard at my office who now greets me every time I walk in. The person I've known for three years. A guy I know from some social service activities. In each case, upon greeting them, I'd search out their pupils and hold my eyes on theirs for a minimum of two blinks. Just as with people I didn't know, time seemed to slow down and routine moments became unpredictable. Not just because two blinks is an eternity when you have nothing to say except "How are you?" but because it meant they had to look at me at least once, and often two or three times, before they spoke.

While I may suck at eye contact naturally, there are people who are worse, much worse, in every ring of my life. The more I practiced, the more hapless they seemed. It's the law of dominance, I think, that the more dominant you become, the more you want to stay dominant. I found I liked backing people down. I began to look at them long enough that I began to sense when they were about to look away. The truth is, instead of them seeing me, it ended up that I could really see them. They were just like I was, a little afraid of eye contact, a little leery of connection. I meant well, so I pressed on. People gave me apologies I didn't ask for. They invited me to dinner.

I could do far worse with my eyes. Anyone can. The tool can always become the weapon.

With any gesture of influence, the danger lies in not knowing what you are after. I fell into an easy routine recently. Just yesterday, while negotiating the price of a beautiful watch I was buying for my mom, I was staring into the eyes of a storekeeper, trying to figure out what color his eyes were, when he suddenly dropped the price by two thousand bucks to four thousand. I'd been threatening him somehow and hadn't known it. I didn't break away. I didn't look down. While I hadn't expected as much, now I had to see where I could go from there.

His eyes jumped back and forth, from the counter to the watch to me, then back again, in reverse. His eyes looked green, I decided. Green.

"Four thousand," I said. "Flat price. No tax. OK?"

He nodded and looked back at me then, long and hard. We were in agreement, though neither of us said a thing.

FYI, my eyes are BROWN.


  1. More than the 'eye contact' it might be the unexpectedness in the gesture that knocks people off.

    At a traffic 'incident' once, all I did was smile while the other guy was about to charge angrily at me (for no fault of mine). He paused, stepped back- unsure, looked around and left!

  2. Hello! I am on re-visit all blogs I have ever seen spree, and just noticed that you have been very regular!So How's u?
    About that eye contact thing, I can so understand that it can aboslutely freak one out!