Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[child] Eye contact

Yesterday in the car, on the way to her grandmother's place to swim with her cousin, the_child announced apropos of nothing in particular that she'd recently discovered the power of making eye contact. (And yes, she used that phrase.)

I allowed as how eye contact was a powerful tool, and even many adults couldn't manage it well. She explained that when she did that, people paid attention to her. Also, that the boys in her class would look away after a minute, and most of the girls wouldn't hold eye contact at all.

We talked about how eye contact was way of establishing, or refuting, social control of a situation, as well as asserting independence and respect. How it could be a threat — when eye contact became staring, and what that meant. About the evolutionary aspects of dominance behavior (I introduced her to that phrase). Why it was important to be noticed if you were a pedestrian or a biker, and an automobile was nearby. Why sometimes in traffic other drivers would refuse to meet my eye, because then they could pretend not to see me to let me into a difficult merge, for example; in other words, more dominance behavior.

It was a wonderful teachable moment. She was terrifically insightful and thoughtful, and quite thrilled with her new social tool. I asked her who had showed her this, but she told me she'd figured it out for herself.

The whole conversation surprised the hell out of me. the_child is 11. I didn't figure some of this stuff out til I was in my late 30s. Go, her.

Originally published at jlake.com.

Tags: child, culture, personal
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