Your Eyes Tell Me Things – Part 1

Looking into someone’s eyes changes the entire conversation.


Eye contact is controlled more deliberately than we have been conditioned to believe.

Conversing while maintaining eye contact illustrates interest and honesty. Brief eye contact greets passersby, acknowledging we see them. Lingering eye contact with potential love interest or that projected by stalkers conjures confidence or terror.

Then there is casting one’s eyes downward or downcast eyes. Free Dictionary defines this as [tilting] one’s head or gaze downward. The online resource exemplifies downcast eyes as, usually a sign of shame or to appear not to have seen someone. Similar platforms offer analogous descriptions.

Wayward children exhibit downcast eyes after their shenanigans are exposed. Adults do so when caught in a lie (irrespective of intent) or held to account in ways misaligned with the offense. Shy people interested in getting to know us better may display downcast eyes as well.

An insidious form of downcast eyes, reflexive even, I experience multiple times daily. Sidewalks. Parking garages. Elevators. Any location at any time. At first it stumped me. Over time I noticed white people, specifically white men regularly downcast their eyes when encountering me.

This is what I know:

  • I have no interest in pity.
  • No one is required to make or sustain eye contact with anyone.
  • This blog has nothing to do with political correctness.
  • Free Speech remains a reality.
  • Eye contact conveys messages beyond those articulated here.
  • Body language – including eye movements – conveys values and intentions.

In the next blog on this topic, I discuss why downcast eyes are irksome and how this behavior fits into the larger narrative around race and racism.