look away

There's this thing I often do when someone is talking to me. A dear friend or colleague will be sharing something with me, a personal problem, a crisis, something that requires a response. And while they are sharing, often as they are getting somewhat emotional, I will without warning look up at the ceiling.

I don't know that I'm doing this but I know the reason for it. When I look up at the ceiling it is a sure sign that I am deeply involved in what my friend is sharing and am listening attentively, thinking hard about it.

To the other person however, it looks as if I'm searching for an escape hatch in the roof.

Years ago, a supervisor of mine was completely convinced that I despised her. She said when she left my office she often had this running monologue in her head, "He hates me. I know it. He thinks I'm micro-managing him. He hates me." After she tentatively confessed this and caused me no end of anguish and guilt, I developed a habit of explaining my ceiling stare in advance at the beginning of almost every serious conversation. "By the way," I would say, "if I suddenly look up at the ceiling while you're talking, it's not because I'm not listening, it's because I am. I'm thinking deeply about what you're saying."

If you didn't know, the ceiling stare is classic introvert behavior; one for which we are commonly misunderstood.

Well, guess what? The BBC has vindicated me and thousands, nay, millions of other ceiling oglers! In fact, we are vindicated retroactive to our childhoods. Read it here.

This is such good news:

The experiment, conducted among 20 children aged five, backs up other studies carried out by the Stirling researchers, which suggest that by the age of eight, children instinctively avert their gaze when considering a response to a question.

And you thought we were ignoring you. Now you know better.

"So when we are trying to concentrate and process something else that's mentally demanding, it's unhelpful to look at faces."

technorati tag:

Posted to:

No comments: