I’m a mask wearer. I absolutely believe that until we have a vaccine or know more substantiated facts of how the Covid virus spreads and how it mutates, we should all wear masks in public. I understand the argument for ones freedoms, however I feel the same about masks as I do about smoking. I don’t care if someone smokes, I just don’t want it to affect my health, so I don’t want to be in public where smoking is permitted and I inhale second hand smoke. Therefore, if wearing a mask in public cuts down on the transmission of Covid or even possibly cuts down on the transmission, then why wouldn’t we all choose to error on the side of a safer environment? Yes – it’s annoying. Yes – it’s an inconvenience. Yes – I anticipate the lipstick industry will take a massive hit. But I look at this as a sacrifice for the common good. It should be one thing that we can all agree upon.
With that being said, one of the things I miss most during this pandemic is looking at all the beautiful faces of friends, family and strangers. The various shapes, sizes, smiles, dimples, freckles and scars each tell a story and evoke emotion that gets lost when obscured by a mask. The outbreak is surging throughout the country and the only way we can get back to normal in the future is if we practice diligence today. It sucks. I get it… but there’s also a hidden opportunity when we all wear masks—we’ve stripped away the distractions and we’re forced to look each other in the eyes. Yes!
This can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, which is why this is such a unique opportunity. You have a built-in excuse to look into another person’s eyes because there are no other facial cues to lock onto. Eye contact is one of the most powerful tools you can bring to an interaction.
When you make eye contact you focus your message and you naturally slow down your speech.
When you make eye contact you create a connection that’s unique to other forms of interaction because intention and attention are applied at the same time. That connection creates engagement with the person you’re speaking with.
Perhaps my favorite thing about making eye contact is that studies have shown sustained eye contact releases oxytocin, a feel-good bonding chemical in the brain. We already know this to be true because so many stories throughout history talk about an emotional expression typified by the description of “they looked me right in the eyes.”
I have to admit using my eyes to communicate has been one of my signature traits. “Miss Val Eyes” was a well known and used colloquialism when I was coaching. Miss Val Eyes typically appeared with a slight squint and direct connection when I wasn’t too happy with what I was seeing. It garnered attention and forced focus. Making eye contact for just a few seconds could accomplish more than any roaring speech I could have delivered.
Likewise, tenderness and caring can be seen in the eyes with clarity that can easily get lost otherwise. I now find myself intentionally smiling with my eyes when I pass strangers. And I have to admit, it feels like we truly are all in this together when I can tell they are smiling back.
“Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes.”~ Norwegian poet Tarjei Vesaas
So while we continue to take each day at a time and do our part for public safety and wear our masks, each time we put it on let it be our cue to be intentional with making eye contact with those we engage with. The result will be a new powerful habit that will strengthen our connections with each other long after we have pulled through this together.