I’m An Eye Closer – What About You?
Posted April 13, 2017on:
Recently in a Stutter Social hangout, we were having a good discussion about eye contact. We discussed the importance of eye contact, what it conveys and why it can be hard for a person who stutters to maintain eye contact.
I believe that maintaining eye contact when talking to someone is very important. It shows that you are engaged, present and that the person you are talking to is important. Eye contact does not mean staring at a person the whole time you’re talking. Rather, it means holding contact for a moment or two while the person is talking and then alternating your gaze while you are talking.
Gazing or staring at someone for a long time can be unnerving, even a little creepy. It is awkward and can make one or both parties feel uncomfortable. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to gauge how long it’s appropriate to hold eye contact with someone who is stuttering.
A person can be caught in a long block. Do you hold eye contact with them until they get the word out? Might it be uncomfortable for them? What should you do if the person breaks eye contact? Do you follow suit? It can be tricky because you want to be respectful and show you are present but you don’t want to cause an uncomfortable moment. Or longer than a moment – depending how long a person’s block is.
It might be best to ask a person who stutters what they would like you to do if they get stuck, if you and she are comfortable enough to talk about it.
It’s also important to note that sometimes use of the eyes is a secondary behavior of stuttering for the person who stutters. I have long known that one of the things I do when I block is squeeze one or both eyes closed for a moment. Sometimes I know I’m doing it – others times it happens quite automatically and unconsciously.
When we were talking about eye contact in the hangout conversation, someone remarked that I am definitely an eye closer. He was observing people in the video chat to see how we handle eye contact when we’re stuttering. He said some of us were “eye closers” and some of us were “look aways.” It was interesting to see how he could observe and determine that in a matter of just moments.
I think I close my eyes when stuttering for two reasons. I try to force out the word I am stuck on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t! The other reason I think is that I am embarrassed or self-conscious about the block and don’t want to see the other person’s reaction. I worry that I’ll see pity, negativity or laughter in the person’s eyes and closing my eyes helps me to avoid that negative reaction.
I am confident in my stuttering. But I concede that I definitely have my moments when a secondary behavior pops up. Like I said, sometimes I’m aware, and sometimes I’m not and it just happens automatically.
What do you think about eye contact? And do you close your eyes or look away?