I just came across this job interview tip in an old Reader’s Digest: Eye contact, it basically said, is important, but should be “‘consistent but not constant”” (so as not to) “creep anyone out with too much intensity.” I probably would have laughed a little and thought Really? if I hadn’t had my own problem with eye contact once. In fact, it’s been over ten years and there are still people who kind of back away from me when they see me; a couple of ladies who take their husband’s arms possessively and look at me suspiciously when I’m around; a former neighbor who hurriedly puts on his sunglasses when we run into each other, and even an acquaintance from a former job who, I’m pretty sure, suspects I have, you know, tendencies.
Well, here’s how this all got started: One day I caught myself looking over a friend’s shoulder when she was in the middle of a story and decided I really needed to do better about showing I’m paying attention and looking people in the eye. So that’s what I began trying to do. Well, the medication I was on may have contributed, but let’s just say my efforts backfired. I apparently overdid it and could sense that those I was talking to felt uncomfortable. I became self-conscious and that made it worse. Yes, I know. I know. It’s another one of those That’s funny, but isn’t situations. My husband, in fact, thought it was hilarious when I finally told him about the problem I’d once had, especially the part about the acquaintance from a former job, and he immediately did this googly eyed thing which he continued doing after that whenever I walked into the room. Bless his heart.
Luckily, most people I talked with during that period knew me well enough that they just seemed to take my problem with a shrug, no doubt guessing correctly that I had a temporary quirk. Coincidentally (or not) the problem pretty much subsided after I stopped taking the medicine I mentioned, and then things were fine again. But I also need to give credit elsewhere. I’ve prayed about some interesting things in my life and that was one of them. My answer then was the same as it was back when I was an adolescent and had even more severe self-consciousness challenges: “It’s not about you. Forget about yourself and quit worrying about the impression YOU might be making, and just sincerely and genuinely care about others.” And isn’t that generally the answer when it comes to these kinds of issues?