Introduction: There are multiple benefits to making good eye-contact with others. It demonstrates active listening. It allows you to make personal connections with others one-on-one or when giving a speech. It also helps you NOT become a target for a potential bully.
Just like when a predator is hunting for prey, a bully is looking for an easy target. An animal such as a tiger on the prowl will scan a herd of aurochs or deer, looking for an animal that is isolated or weak or old or infirm in some way. In the same manner, a bully will enter a room and scan it to seek out the most ideal victim. Just like the tiger will not bother trying to kill the strong herd animal who is most likely to put up a successful fight, the bully is not going to bother trying to pick on a kid who he or she perceives to be popular or confident or physically capable of fighting back.
So what are the characteristics of someone who a bully might perceive as being an ideal victim?
As the previous article entitled “Avoid bullying tip #1: Use good posture” states, slumping and using bad posture is indicative of someone who might make an easy target. Slumping as opposed to standing and walking with good posture is not an absolute guarantee that the bully has found a person who would be the best victim as many young people default to using bad posture. The bully is looking for one other characteristic combined with the bad posture that helps him or her zero in on the easiest target in the room. What is that other characteristic? The bully is looking for someone who not only slumps as he or she stands or walks, the bully is looking for someone who has a hard time making eye contact with others.
Think about how you perceive people who make eye contact with others. How would you label or describe that person? Would you say they were confident or timid? Would you say they were brave or cowardly? Would you say they were friendly or unfriendly? Would you say they were strong or weak? Would you say they were relaxed or nervous? People who make eye contact with others are generally perceived to be confident, brave, friendly, strong, and relaxed. Whereas, people who do not make eye contact with others are perceived to be timid, cowardly, unfriendly, weak, and nervous. If you were a bully, which of those two categories of people would you think you could most successfully overpower? Naturally, a bully would rather pick on someone who is timid rather than confident, cowardly rather than brave, unfriendly rather than friendly, weak rather than strong, and nervous rather than relaxed.
So, just by reading the previous paragraph, do you see the benefits to teaching your child or yourself to make good eye contact with others?
What we can learn from alpha, beta, and omega wolves
Perhaps it might be helpful to watch a documentary about wolf packs. Naturalists at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, Tennessee, explain that every wolf has a rank. The top-ranked wolves are called the Alpha Wolves. There can be an Alpha Male Wolf and an Alpha Female Wolf. The next in rank are called the Beta Wolves. Beta Wolves can come in either gender: male or female. Last in rank and the favorite target of the entire pack is the wolf (male or female) known as the Omega Wolf. The naturalists at Bays Mountain Park called their female wolf with the lowest rank a Cinderella Wolf. The author of Wolf Park.net used the term Scapegoat Wolf. The Omega Wolf is the wolf that is the easiest to overpower; in other words, it is the wolf least capable of defending himself or herself.
The author of Wolf Country.net explains that the Omega Wolf is the one who will have the most arch or slump to his or her back; whereas, the Alpha Wolves demonstrate their dominance by having the straightest back and maintaining the tallest stance. That same author states that another way wolves display their dominance is by “staring penetratingly” at a submissive wolf. The author also says that a wolf shows it is suspicious by narrowing its eyes. The author of Wolf Park.org explains that predator wolves “stare at their prey and look very focused.” This author describes one of the main ways a wolf demonstrates that it is submissive to the dominant wolf is by looking away.
Do you want your child to have high status like a Beta or Alpha Wolf? Teach your child to make eye contact. Better yet, you and your family can make a game of playing like you are a wolf pack. Give your child the opportunity to practice behavior more conducive to being, at the very least, a Beta Wolf. Better yet, have him or her practice the behavior and characteristics of being an Alpha Wolf. Teach your child to recognize that squinting or narrowing his or her eyes and looking away invites the other people around to view him or her as the lowest-ranked person in the group, just like the Omega Wolf is the lowest-ranked wolf in the pack. Making eye contact in a calm and friendly manner demonstrates that your child is deserving of being perceived as a high-ranking Beta or Alpha Wolf.
Some ideal ways to make eye contact with others
What are the best ways to make eye contact with others? You have probably heard the old axiom of “Don’t Stare.” Staring at others is considered to be quite rude. If you look into somebody’s eyes too long, his or her reflex will be to look away after a while or to feel nervous. Staring at others is not a good way to make eye contact as it is perceived as being invasive and aggressive. If you watch shows about bullies, observe what they do with their eyes. Notice that they will do just what the Alpha Wolves do with their prey, they give penetrating and strongly focused stares. If you stare back at a bully in that same manner, you will activate his or her fight or flight instinct. Since the bully is used to being the one who acts with aggression, it is unlikely he or she will back down. Instead, they will feel even more motivated to fight you in some manner. So, do not stare at others. Staring is NOT a good way to reach your goal of being bully-free.
A fun exercise to try
An interesting exercise you can try is to turn on one of your favorite sitcoms. Mute the volume and simply watch the actors’ use of eye contact. Observe that they are not staring their fellow actor down as that denotes aggression in a negative way. Notice that they look at each other eyes for a few seconds, then they glance at their mouths or cheeks or forehead or nose or hair or clothes, and then make eye contact once again. That is the most ideal eye contact to make. If you look into somebody’s eyes too long, it could make him or her feel cornered or uncomfortable. If you barely look into their eyes or look away or over their shoulder or at your feet, it makes you look both nervous and uncaring.
Here is a fun exercise to try. Stand in front of a mirror. Pretend that your reflection is your favorite sitcom star. Make eye contact with your reflection in the manner previously described. Notice that you look confident and comfortable as you do this. Next, have a conversation with a member of your family. Each of you practice making eye contact with each other. Give feedback of how each of you feels as the recipient of that eye contact and as the giver of that eye contact.
Now imagine that a bully approaches your child. That bully is looking for an easy target. If your child begins narrowing his eyes, looking down, or looking away, he or she is basically painting a target on his or her face that invites bullying. Instead, if your child will make eye contact with the bully, the bully might just decide to back down. Better yet, have your child practice both making good eye contact and using good posture. Now he no longer appears to be submissive and an easy target. The bully may decide it would be better to pick on somebody else or skip bullying anybody at that time.
Other benefits of making good eye contact with others
Making eye contact with others is one of the best social skills you can possess. Have you ever been in conversation with people who continually look over your shoulder? Did it make you feel tempted to look over your shoulder to see who they were looking at? Did it give you the feeling that perhaps they either don’t really care about you or they are simply waiting for someone they perceive as more desirable to take your place? So, making eye contact with others makes them feel cared about and respected. Notice that your family members, your teachers, and your best friends most likely all make eye contact with you. So making eye contact with others demonstrates caring.
Now think about those people who have to get up in front of the class to give a speech or report. What is the strongest indicator to alert you if that person is feeling confident or nervous? If you guessed using eye contact with his or her audience, you are absolutely correct. Public speakers who make eye contact with their audience not only demonstrate that they feel confident and comfortable, they make connections with various members of their audience. This motivates their listeners to pay more attention and to actively listen. Therefore, force yourself to make eye contact with your audience, even if you do happen to feel nervous, as it gives your listeners the impression that you are not nervous at all. Then, once the you notice that people are actually listening, you will probably start relaxing even more. Eventually, you will forget to be nervous.
Other suggestions about making good eye contact with others
At least once a week, have an on-going discussion with your child about how well he or she managed to use good eye contact with others. If your use of making good eye contact with others is less than perfect, share with your child how much you tried to do the same. Compare notes. Does your child now have success stories to share about not being picked on as much by a bully? Share success stories of your own.
A fun activity for parent and child
To further reinforce the importance of using good posture, play these two songs about bullies. Learn the songs and sing them together. Practice the skills indicated in the songs to make your child much more bully-proof. Here’s the links:
1. Click this link for “Anti-Bullying song for kids #1: My Bully Buster Song”on rootshed.com
2. Click this link for Another Bully Buster Song on YouTube. (Song is embedded within this article.)
Now that your child knows that making good eye contact with others can help him or her achieve a happier life now and in the long run, it may feel like a worthier activity to practice and perfect.
Please note: This article was originally posted in 2009 under the former publishing tool. When it was discovered that it had some missing links and videos, etc., I edited it and re-published it as you see above.
Return to Hub page for “Avoid Bullying with these 12 tips”
- Wolf Country.net – The Wolf Pack
Wolf Park.org – Frequently Asked Questions About Wolves
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