I would like to finely tune my skills as well as the ones he walks in daily. Whether Jeff was born with his superpower or practices learned skills, neither would happen if he still wasn’t intentional. We are given a choice in how we relate to people whether gifted or not...we have the power to choose to connect better.
Jeff and I are both committed to maintaining eye contact when having conversations with friends, business contacts or on dates. In my practice of it, I am almost never the first one to look away. However, people are not used to it and they look away...sometimes hoping it goes unnoticed...other times expressing it’s just too intense for them.
"The eyes are the window to the soul", Shakespeare once, said. We want a 'soulmate,' but are we willing to let someone see our soul? There is a great gift in not just gazing at someone, but there is a greater gift in being seen, down to your soul. When I gaze past someone’s surface and into the deep layers beneath, I am creating a space where vulnerability and intimacy await.
There was recently an article from the NY Post that went viral. It was written by a gal who tried something new on a first date. She had read about a study from the 1970s where they did experiments to see what would happen if they brought in two strangers, gave them a set of 36 questions that were increasingly more intense and vulnerable. When the participants finished the questions, they ended with four minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. She decided to try it and ended up falling in love and is now marrying her first date.
This isn’t about asking personal questions…it isn’t just about being vulnerable with someone you just met…it is about allowing yourself to be SEEN.
So I decided to try an experiment of my own. I ran an ad on craigslist for a participant. I requested that they not tell me much about themselves, but I had to be able to verify them through LinkedIn, so we could start off knowing virtually nothing about each other.
I actually got a lot of replies, I chose Jack. We met at a coffee house I frequent…Jack is in his mid-40s, moderately handsome, has a successful career, has never married or had children.
At first Jack talked about how he was very interested in psychology so that intrigued him to answer the ad, but he seemed a little guarded. In fact, during the first dozen questions, he would even say “But I don’t know you well enough to tell you that yet.”
However, because we both committed to eye-contact throughout, were open to be on this journey, eventually the vulnerability was easy, eventually all of the questions were answered without holding anything back. The hardest part for both of us though, was being seen…not our junk, our flaws, our past mistakes, our childhoods or collective relationship history. The part that was hardest was being seen for our goodness.
Four or five times during the experiment you have to give your partner some specific compliments or make statements about you both as a couple. While neither Jack nor I struggled with pointing out the good characteristics about each other, receiving the compliments is when we felt most vulnerable because it’s when we felt most seen, most valued and that created a different level of intimacy.
After two and a half hours of questions, we set the timer on my iphone for four minutes. For me, the four minutes was easy because I’m quite committed to eye contact anyway, but Jack had just been a stranger from craigslist a few hours before. We didn’t stare, we looked…we gazed…we saw…we even had these cute little intimate sighs and giggles. When the timer went off, I was disappointed it was over and Jack said “I think I could keep looking into those eyes of yours.”
SoulPancake did an experiment with just the eye contact portion of this exercise. They used a couple that were complete strangers, ones that had just started dating, and ones that had been together various years, including a couple who had been married for 55. (I put the link to it below.) You actually see the intimacy building during the four minutes, you can see the walls coming down, both people are willing to look, but some have trouble letting the other see.
The thing that struck is me is that the couples who had been together a while all commented that they don’t take the time to look into each other’s eyes. They lived together, potentially having visual experiences with each other every day, but as they were coordinating the busyness of life…they forgot.
They forgot to look, to see and to value…which is why you have to be intentional…both in looking and in allowing yourself to be seen, even with the person you love most.
Are you willing to let someone look into the windows of your soul?
It’s a practice of vulnerability,
it’s a practice of connectedness,
it’s a practice that has to be intentional.
Oh…and to answer your question, Jack and I did go on a second date…no, we didn’t fall in love, but we both learned a lot that day!