When you look your partner in the eye while you communicate, you are less likely to spark a negative discussion.
Think about the last conversation you had with your partner. What do you recall about the way he or she looked? Did your partner raise his eyebrows, puff out his cheeks, look disbelieving and smile incredulously? Did his hair lie a bit differently than usual? Did your eyes ever meet? Did she have on lipstick? Was she wearing earrings? Were her eyes twinkling, or did she appear tired?
I see a lot of couples for marriage counseling, and one of the things I’m continually made aware of is that couples frequently do not look at each other when they are talking. In fact, they spend more time looking away and avoiding eye contact than actually looking at each other.
When I point this out to the couple, the partner who is not looking often becomes defensive and says, “I was thinking and that’s why I was looking away.” What he doesn’t realize, however, is how seldom he looks at his partner.
One reason a partner does not look at his mate when talking is that he is paying attention to something else. The cell phone texts or television is on, and he is half listening to a program. Or the children are fighting, and she is trying to hear what’s going on with the kids. Also, people speak only about 120 words a minute while we think at light speed in comparison. So it’s easy to become distracted, think of something else, half listen and not look.
In one study, a group of college students in a classroom purposely looked away from a visiting professor as he lectured. His speech soon became monotone, and he lost almost all facial expression. Then, at a predetermined time, all the students sat up and started looking at the lecturer. Within 30 seconds, his face became animated, his body posture changed, he started moving his arms about and his voice became stronger.
At another prearranged time, the students again stopped looking at the professor. Within minutes, he again lost his enthusiasm and started to drone.
When partners look at each other, they are less sarcastic and less likely to respond negatively. In addition, partners who learn to look at each other report feeling less annoyed and more concerned for their mate.
Why not look at your partner today when he or she is talking? Find out how much you’ve been missing.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com. If you have enjoyed reading this column click here to subscribe to Doris’ blog and receive it directly in to your inbox each week.
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