Not so long ago, lack of eye contact was an indication of shyness, or disrespect.
Now, it is simply a given.
Young people these days….
As more and more of us are working remotely and the idea of a traditional office goes the way of the dinosaurs, we don’t really need to interact with people. As a replacement, most communication is filtered through our phones. Photos, words, memes, videos – the phone is our number one filter.
A study revealed that compared to Baby Boomers, Gen Y brains have 10% less connections in the brain that identify emotions on a person’s face.
Back in the day, we had one on one conversations. We needed to look a people’s faces and have firm handshakes. All of those small interactions wired our brains and we learned to recognize that clenched fists meant John was frustrated. Or maybe we would be able to clue in on Sally’s flared nostrils, and we’d know that we had pushed a topic too far. A friend turning away from you when you bring up the subject of Mother’s Day may remind you that she is having trouble conceiving, and thus you remind yourself to be more sensitive. All of those subtle unspoken signals aren’t transferred to text.
Because the norm is to now have multiple conversations happen simultaneously on different apps, no one looks up anymore. It is hard to read emotion through a text, even with the help of ALL CAPS ON and lots of emojis. As we increase our communication through text, when we go out into the real world our brains become less able to identify another’s emotions during a conversation. We have become less able to understand each other. Eventually, this leads to more conflict, and less of an ability to direct where a conversation should go next. Maybe this is why we love to say
Just as bad as not being able to read emotions when having face-to-face conversations, is the new (but now normal) habit of checking our phones during these conversations, so our text conversations can be maintained simultaneously.
It’s kinda rude.
Hold up baby…lemme ‘gram this moment….
Here is a guide on how to ease back into real life conversations.
- Show some enthusiasm.
You know when it’s your friend’s birthday and you post all kinds of memes, gifs, and emojis on their social media? You gotta bring that back into the real world. It’s terrible when a friend says hello and you can barely mumble, “Sup?” because you can’t be bothered to lift your head out of your phone. Your friends should be worth your time and energy, so give them some time and energy.
- Eye Contact
It’s the universal code of, “let’s engage.” Not having eye contact is the universal code to disengage. It’s not only Baby Boomers who appreciate this social skill. Eye contact makes you appear more confident, warmer, competent, and sincere. However, not all eye contact is created equal. Staring at a person is too much and makes them feel trapped. Break eye contact every so often, usually when they are speaking. If you break eye-contact and start looking up, or down at the floor, you will appear disinterested. It is nice to look at the background, towards their ear or just past it, then naturally travel back to find their eyes. If you’re on a date and like looking at their beautiful face, take a break while they are speaking and study their lips. Can’t do that over SnapChat, or a Story that will disappear in 24 hours.
- Body Language
When you meet someone new, you usually face them and shake hands. As you ease into the conversation, angle your body slightly so you are not square in front of them. We feel at ease when we aren’t blocked by another person’s body. Standing side by side is good, especially if you’re taller and larger than your conversation partner. If you stand right in front of them and give them an eye-contact-stare-down, it will be too intimidating.
- Excuse yourself
If you must check your phone you can say, “Excuse me, I need to check this quickly.” Then, put your phone away and go back to giving your conversation partner some real face time. As stated above, looking up or down..or at your phone…shows that you are distracted.
- Be interested
Don’t worry if you’re blubbering along. A 3-second lull in the conversation is NOT the time to go check your Instagram stats. Don’t worry that you may not be interesting. The best thing to do is listen to the other person. Create new connections in your brain and try to match what they are saying with any emotions you are perceiving. There will always be something to talk about if you are paying attention to them.
Those are the basics. Life can be just as addicting as the online world. Instead of likes and a thumbs up, you get a hug, and maybe a kiss! ❤