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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-08-18 04:45
Subject: [child] Eye contact
Security: Public
Tags:child, culture, personal
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.

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User: lauriemann
Date: 2009-08-18 13:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My daughter described how she could direct her dreams when she was six! At about that time, I remember hearing about courses that were taught on "lucid Dreaming." It's probably no surprise that she's a very avid gamer.
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User: etcet
Date: 2009-08-18 13:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
the_child will make an excellent benevolent dictator when the time comes, and we're all toiling merrily in her serfdom. :-)
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User: bridget_coila
Date: 2009-08-18 14:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
She always impresses me with how smart and insightful she is! That sounds like it was a wonderful conversation :)

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User: madrobins
Date: 2009-08-18 14:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You know, your Child and my younger daughter together could--dare I say it--Rule The World. The trick is to stay on their good sides now.

I love these conversations with smart, insightful kids.
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User: lauriemann
Date: 2009-08-18 20:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Maybe a triumvirate - Don't forget Diana Clough Benton (Brenda and Larry's oldest). And Diana's an officer in the Army now...
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User: scarlettina
Date: 2009-08-18 14:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Go her, indeed.
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User: willyumtx
Date: 2009-08-18 15:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Do you look directly at people's eyes?

I remember being taught at a young age to look at the area just under a person's eyes. It was the polite thing to do.
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User: slweippert
Date: 2009-08-18 16:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow. You've got to be one proud papa.
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Josh English
User: joshenglish
Date: 2009-08-18 16:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I learned two years ago not to get into a staring contest with her. She can be intimidating.
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Jim Kling
User: jkling
Date: 2009-08-18 16:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
On a possibly related note, my border collie recently figured out how to use eye contact on sheep. He has what the trainer calls a 'strong eye,' which is to say that he controls the sheep through staring at them at least as much as through physical displays.

Recently when the sheep were settled next to me and the trainer, and the dog was about 5 feet away, he did his usual staring at them, but then he started looking away briefly and then resuming his stare. It visibly calmed the sheep when he looked away and the trainer said it was his way of regulating how much 'pressure' he was putting on them.

More dominance behavior, but from wolves.
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User: farmgirl1146
Date: 2009-08-18 20:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Child is going to be a major force in this world.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2009-08-18 22:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
On the day of my Bar Mitzvah, an uncle taught me to offer a firm handshake and look the person directly in the eyes. I've never forgotten that advice.

So, on the_child's Bat Mitzvah, she'll already be way ahead of me.
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