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‘Look down, look down, Don’t Look ‘em in the eye’ are the lyrics which open the blockbuster musical Les Miserables, but they also served as the theme song for President Obama’s debate performance this week. In a strong performance from Governor Romney, and a shockingly weak by the President, many people wonder “What happened?” One of the President’s biggest mistakes, and the Governor’s strengths, reflects a mannerism that has seem to have fallen out of fashion, and must be revived in the general populous. That is, the art of eye contact.
In a modern and digital world we are always ‘plugged’ in and on the go. From the car to work, from school to shopping, there is always something that requires our attention. More often than not, it originates from a handheld digital device. It takes me seconds in public to find a person walking around, staring down at their phone, meandering through sidewalks, isles, and parking lots. It’s as if they wouldn’t make it to their destination without it! This is obviously a safety danger to the person, as well as anyone around them! Look up and pay attention when you decide to participate in walking!
More than just a safety hazard, it is quality of human decency that is slipping out of fashion, and it should not. What happened to the days when you walked with your head up high, looked people in the eye, smiled, and maybe, just maybe, said ‘Hello’? Long gone are the polite ‘Mayberry’ days of pleasant interpersonal interaction. Good eye contact delivers a message of confidence, care, trust, interest, and respect. Governor Romney was a stellar example of how to maintain eye contact, and direct a message to a person, as well as a group. President Obama looked down, and often off camera, giving off a perception of sheepishness, lack of preparedness, respect and confidence, as well as seeming disinterested and bored. It’s no question what helped Governor Romney win the most important debate of his life, it was eye contact!
Each of us can learn a lesson from our President, and Governor Romney. Eye contact makes a difference. It communicates our inner desires and interests. It broadcasts feelings and thoughts to those around us. Let us each make an effort to look up, make eye contact, and be a little more pleasant. It would do the world a whole lot of good and in fact, it may save your life.
by James Grant