I came across a list of personal goals from 10 years ago, and one of them was: “Make better eye contact.”
I didn’t write that because of any negative feedback I’d received. I certainly didn’t write it because of any so-called autism therapy – no one knew I was autistic at the time, including me.
I wrote it because it’s a message that gets sent, from various sources, to everyone: Make eye contact to show that you’re listening. Make eye contact to show that you care. Make eye contact to make people like you more.
Never once did that advice come with a disclaimer that there would be tradeoffs.
For every moment that I spend maintaining the commonly accepted amount of eye contact – not too much, not too little – I lose a bit of concentration, and I gain a bit of stress.
I’m grateful that no one ever tried to force me to look in their eyes. I’m a little sad that I tried to force myself. But mostly, I’m glad that I understand my brain better now.