Eye contact with strangers

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Rippy
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Eye contact with strangers

Postby Rippy » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:39 pm UTC

So there's this cute first-year girl I saw when I was an orientation leader. I never talked to her, but I've walked past her a few times between classes. And I noticed that when that's happened, we'll make eye contact and smile a bit. And I couldn't help but notice how nice it was compared to the average stranger in the crowd.

I intend to say hi next time (that is a matter for LSR however :P), but it got me thinking more in general. I obviously don't expect everyone to smile at me, but I definitely find that when I'm out and about I look at the people around me, and so that's why it always strikes me when I see someone looking back. Usually everyone's just kind of staring up ahead, so I'll often go right by friends of mine who don't notice I'm there.

Is it odd of me to be looking around at people's faces? It seems totally natural, but considering how rarely I seem to notice other people doing the same, I'm curious.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Rinsaikeru » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:43 pm UTC

It depends.

When I'm in a rush to get somewhere, in a crowd of people, later at night, on public transport: I completely avoid eye contact for several reasons. (Don't have time/interest in chatting with strangers, I'm not paying attention because I've got my headphones in and staring at people is rude, Don't want anyone to come sit near me).

When I'm happy and comfortable and not in a rush I make lots of eye contact, probably far more often with other women than I do with men.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby TaintedDeity » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:02 am UTC

Making eye contact with small children is a good way to keep them quiet when they're screaming on buses. It shocks them.
Apart fro that, I tend not to make much eye contact unless I want to talk to somebody, stranger or not.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:32 am UTC

I always make eye contact with people if they're looking around. I scan crowds as part of my training, and if people are looking agitated/nervous/twitchy in a crowd, I'm used to having to mark them. Old habits die hard.

However, if left to my own devices I'd just as likely be one of those people who doesn't look right at people. I've been told that it can be intimidating coming from me, and I don't like the concept that I'm intimidating people around me.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Plasma Man » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:06 am UTC

Yeah, it varies. I think the basic criteria is that if you want to communicate something, even if it is just a smile, you make eye contact. Otherwise I tend to avoid it, but I like to look around me when walking around, so do quite often end up making brief eye contact by accident. As long as it's only brief, I feel that's OK.
Of course, when I'm at work and talking to patients, I maintain eye contact as much as possible. I think it makes them feel like I'm focusing on them and treating them as a person, not just a body to be dealt with. I think it also helps to keep them focused on what I'm telling them, and I can often see from a change in their expression if something I've said gives them cause for concern.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:13 am UTC

I'm usually fairly happy to look around at the various faces of strangers in a crowd, but I have more trouble keeping eye contact with people I'm actually talking to. I have to fully concentrate on maintaining eye contact, which means I'm not listening very attentively to what they're saying.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:40 am UTC

Oregonaut wrote:I've been told that it can be intimidating coming from me, and I don't like the concept that I'm intimidating people around me.


Ditto, I have real trouble making eye contact with people in conversations, but as I've got better at forcing myself to do it I've started to do so all the time. Result: several people I've recently met socially have commented that they found it really intimidating when they first met me. Solution: ???????

The girls I know (even in passing) do all seem to smile when I make eye contact, increasily I try to smile back, Though due to some dental issues, I try not to smile too much; Comparatively the Blokes I know tend to nod, and I nod back.

@Oregonaut: I don't suppose you're over 6', relatively broad for your height and have short clipped hair are you?
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby jobriath » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:34 pm UTC

It varies by country, too. In Northern England, all but brief male--male eye contact is likely to be interpreted as aggression, male--female as flirtation, and I don't know female--female. A New Zealander friend complained about how people actively avoid your eye even while strolling in the park. It's easier when you're likely to have something in common, e.g., you're both obviously students, or are both hiking, or whatever.

When I went to France I had to consciously keep from raising my hackles every time a guy would make and hold eye contact for longer than the regulation 0.2 seconds.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby kingofdreams » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:01 pm UTC

I have some issues with HPPD and there's almost always something remarkable about people eyes, so I like to take quick glances, but any longer feels like I'm intruding on them and something personal, I also have a slight facial agnosia (just takes me a few seconds), so I tend to avoid eye contact with people I'm walking by.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:22 pm UTC

TheKrikkitWars wrote:@Oregonaut: I don't suppose you're over 6', relatively broad for your height and have short clipped hair are you?


I'm 6'3", built like a strong safety, and have very, very close cut hair due to my time in the military making any other haircut uncomfortable.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:24 pm UTC

jobriath wrote:It varies by country, too. In Northern England, all but brief male--male eye contact is likely to be interpreted as aggression, male--female as flirtation, and I don't know female--female. A New Zealander friend complained about how people actively avoid your eye even while strolling in the park. It's easier when you're likely to have something in common, e.g., you're both obviously students, or are both hiking, or whatever.

When I went to France I had to consciously keep from raising my hackles every time a guy would make and hold eye contact for longer than the regulation 0.2 seconds.


This actually conflicts with my experiences of my brief visits oop north. I always found northerners to be more friendly and more likely to say "good morning/afternoon" as they passed by.

Or maybe it's just because I've always gone to rural areas and city dwellers are more guarded?
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Spambot5546 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 2:54 pm UTC

Interesting trick i've noticed: while talking to someone, periodically break eye contact to look at a point behind them, or somewhere on their face or clothing. Always the same point. They will often think that there is something behind them/in their teeth/on their clothes and get paranoid. Fun to watch! :)
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:15 pm UTC

Basically, my reaction to accidentally making eye contact with strangers is to flatten my metaphorical ears. I'm not sure why I automatically feel hostile and hunted. If the person follows with a smile, the feeling goes away and I smile back, but otherwise it's just super awkward.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby existential_elevator » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:32 pm UTC

....Got to admit, I've always tried to make it a habit to smile at passers-by and catch their eye slightly. Just because it can make the whole world seem a little nicer sometimes. I guess it's hard not to come across as skeezy, maybe? Perhaps I should worry more about making people feel uncomfortable? Somehow, it seems more socially awkward to ignore people walking past and it just only seems polite to acknowledge other people's existence. It's a bit like saying thank-you if someone holds the door open. If it's a very crowded place, it's obviously impossible to smile at everyone in the room, but I certainly try to at least show some solitude with the poor person who I'm probably about to accidentally dig my elbows into.

What do you think? Would you rather be ignored than smiled at?

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:35 pm UTC

I'd rather be smiled at. It tends to make things a bit less awkward and furtive - just make sure the smile isn't a huge cheese-eating grin, or anything. Just a quick "nice day" smile will do.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:37 pm UTC

Now is probably a bad time to mention that I occasionally engage in a bit of Cheshire Cat Grinning at people as they walk past.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:10 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:This actually conflicts with my experiences of my brief visits oop north. I always found northerners to be more friendly and more likely to say "good morning/afternoon" as they passed by.


Being a northern monkey I identify with saying morning or afternoon, but I wouldn't make eye contact, or break my stride when I say it.
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TheKrikkitWars wrote:@Oregonaut: I don't suppose you're over 6', relatively broad for your height and have short clipped hair are you?


I'm 6'3", built like a strong safety, and have very, very close cut hair due to my time in the military making any other haircut uncomfortable.

Hahahaha, I'm the same height and build, and have just gone from having long shaggy hair down to my shoulders to having a high and tight cut(went to barber, went "something short please" came out with practically no hair :D) and people's reactions to me changed perceptably from almost the second I'd had the haircut.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:21 pm UTC

Yeah, very short hair seems to help project the image of tough guy, whether you want it to or not. I get my hair cut very rarely, so when I do, it's a marked transition between shaggy and almost-skinhead. I do notice people talk to me differently after a haircut. (I'm also a 6'4" non-lanky guy)

Of course, the real reason I don't like getting my hair cut is because short hair makes me look like my dad. :?
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:21 pm UTC

KrikkitWars, your signature makes the forums sad. :(
Oregonaut wrote:Now is probably a bad time to mention that I occasionally engage in a bit of Cheshire Cat Grinning at people as they walk past.

I'm a baaaaad man.

Oh, so you're the guy who scared the daylights out of me yesterday?
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Lazar » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:23 pm UTC

Sometimes I find myself making eye contact with strangers even when I don't want to - it's as if I've got a subconscious urge to be awkward.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:25 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:KrikkitWars, your signature makes the forums sad. :(
Oregonaut wrote:Now is probably a bad time to mention that I occasionally engage in a bit of Cheshire Cat Grinning at people as they walk past.

I'm a baaaaad man.

Oh, so you're the guy who scared the daylights out of me yesterday?


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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

Oregonaut: Making people Slightly Uncomfortable without knowing why since 1980.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Kang » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:28 pm UTC

I avoid eye contact, mostly because in my experience a lot of people quickly interpret it as me staring at them and get rather hostile.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Spambot5546 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:
podbaydoor wrote:KrikkitWars, your signature makes the forums sad. :(
Oregonaut wrote:Now is probably a bad time to mention that I occasionally engage in a bit of Cheshire Cat Grinning at people as they walk past.

I'm a baaaaad man.

Oh, so you're the guy who scared the daylights out of me yesterday?


I'm always there Pod. Always.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:45 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:KrikkitWars, your signature makes the forums sad. :(

First off, appologies and Big Hugs to anyone I unintentionally inconvenienced, it was fine on the uni workstation, I only realised there was an issue when I started getting PM emails on my PDA, then I got home and tried to load it on my laptop which promptly had a fit. I've replaced the [math] with an image of it now, still waiting for someone to work out what it is though.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Oct 13, 2010 5:57 pm UTC

0.77323954...

I'm simply that good. I also enjoy randomly appearing and disappearing when people ask me to come to their office and help. I'll stand there quietly waiting for them to finish on the phone, and then when they turn around I'm standing there.

Not my fault they leave their door wide open and get on the phone when I tell them I'll be right there.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:13 pm UTC

I do that too, but it's probably more impressive in your case since you're not a small female with a tendency to sidle.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Kang » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:12 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:0.77323954...

I'm simply that good. I also enjoy randomly appearing and disappearing when people ask me to come to their office and help. I'll stand there quietly waiting for them to finish on the phone, and then when they turn around I'm standing there.

Not my fault they leave their door wide open and get on the phone when I tell them I'll be right there.

Doesn't that scare people half to death? It happened once to me and from what I know about your appearance you are far scarier before being recognised than me.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:18 pm UTC

Dear Luna yes. They almost come out of their skin. But what am I to do? Stomp my feet everywhere? Wear a friggin' bell? I move quietly, they should pay better attention to their surroundings.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby TaintedDeity » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:55 pm UTC

I do a similar thing. Accidentally sneaking up on people is very amusing.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:36 pm UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:I do a similar thing. Accidentally sneaking up on people is very amusing.

I love it when you walk into a store, the person at the register looks away for a second and when they look back, it's...you. No clue where you came from, just that you weren't there two seconds ago.

I do that routinely at Starbucks.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby kernelpanic » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:58 am UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:Making eye contact with small children is a good way to keep them quiet when they're screaming on buses. It shocks them.

It works, but by far the best way is to kneel down to their height, talk very quietly in a friendly but neutral voice, while looking between their eyes and nose. Its so terrifying that they shut up, stay still and don't complain for about 15-30 minutes. Sometimes it even works with older kids, up to about 14, older than that and you have to talk in the "I control you because I could kill you if I so wished" voice and look at their eyes, but focus your sight into something that is about 10 cm inside of their head. The problem is the voice, as young kids are good at searching for anger, which you do not want, and with older ones, you must have a hint of justification in your voice (only there - you don't need to be, and very likely aren't, able to literally kill them)

All this was taught to me by a teacher who I saw calm down animals and humans with his sight, shortly before retiring.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby manictheatrefan » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:30 am UTC

TheKrikkitWars wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:This actually conflicts with my experiences of my brief visits oop north. I always found northerners to be more friendly and more likely to say "good morning/afternoon" as they passed by.


Being a northern monkey I identify with saying morning or afternoon, but I wouldn't make eye contact, or break my stride when I say it.[quote="Oregonaut"][quote="TheKrikkitWars"]

It unsettles me when people do that... (i.e. verbally greet me without breaking their stride and making quick eye contact) I'm not expecting it and therefore can't react in time without being weird (turning around and waving, or some other oddness).

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Thesh » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:24 am UTC

If I'm alone, I generally ignore passers by completely. When I am with someone, I like to point at them and act suspicious at a distance and make eye contact when they walk by.

I'm actually very shy in person, and try to ignore everyone as much as possible whether I am with friends or not
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Rippy » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:02 am UTC

manictheatrefan wrote:It unsettles me when people do that... (i.e. verbally greet me without breaking their stride and making quick eye contact) I'm not expecting it and therefore can't react in time without being weird (turning around and waving, or some other oddness).

Ahh I can't stand that. A few acquaintances of mine will say "hey how's it goin?" as they walk by, when there is not possibly enough time to answer and politely return the question.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby Plasma Man » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:37 pm UTC

That bugs me too.

A handy hint for if you wish to say good morning to strangers is to wear a hat. I've taken to raising my hat and saying good morning / afternoon / evening to random strangers, who normally find it more amusing and confusing than intimidating. I'm about 6'2" and fairly broad.
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby lemma » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:45 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:I always make eye contact with people if they're looking around. I scan crowds as part of my training, and if people are looking agitated/nervous/twitchy in a crowd, I'm used to having to mark them. Old habits die hard.

However, if left to my own devices I'd just as likely be one of those people who doesn't look right at people. I've been told that it can be intimidating coming from me, and I don't like the concept that I'm intimidating people around me.


Remind me not to be nervous in a crowd in Oregon (not that I'm there often...buh). I don't want to be taken out by marksman.

Here just looking at people is much more socially acceptable. It takes a bit of getting used to.

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby jobriath » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:52 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
jobriath wrote:It varies by country, too. In Northern England, all but brief male--male eye contact is likely to be interpreted as aggression, male--female as flirtation, and I don't know female--female.


This actually conflicts with my experiences of my brief visits oop north. I always found northerners to be more friendly and more likely to say "good morning/afternoon" as they passed by.

Or maybe it's just because I've always gone to rural areas and city dwellers are more guarded?


Whoops---yep, I was talking about in a city (Leeds) and to a lesser degree a town (Barnsley).

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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby kingofdreams » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:54 pm UTC

Sheikh al-Majaneen wrote:
TaintedDeity wrote:I do a similar thing. Accidentally sneaking up on people is very amusing.

I love it when you walk into a store, the person at the register looks away for a second and when they look back, it's...you. No clue where you came from, just that you weren't there two seconds ago.

I do that routinely at Starbucks.


I saw that Seinfeld :)
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Re: Eye contact with strangers

Postby electronic mily » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:53 pm UTC

I'm pretty uncomfortable with eye contact to the point where I don't generally even do it with people I know well, but I can force it if I need to - in job interviews, for instance, some level of my brain is always keeping track of when I need to make contact to avoid looking sketchy or anything. I like the idea of eye contact, but since I'm not used to it I can never tell what kind of vibes I put out when I do, so I avoid it.

I'm curious, though - what kind of reactions do you guys have to eye contact from strangers, in general or in specific cases?


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