Does this strike fear in you? Many fear flying, and some fear lightning, and many cringe in fear at the thought of speaking. But one thing I love is connecting with the crowd through eye contact and smiling at individuals. It thrills me when they smile back and I know I have their attention.
Eyes are expressive. They have the power to compel along with our words. They express happiness, excitement, pain, sorrow. A good speaker can draw us in with their eyes.
But if a speaker is full of fear and unable to look at their audience, their effectiveness wanes.
Okay, I've been there.
I've shaken to where I thought I'd rattle right off the stage.
But when I stepped out of my comfort zone and looked people in the eye, I found freedom. Freedom to love those I was speaking to. To engage with them on a deeper level. And to let them see my heart.
Then again, if we look someone in the eye too long, it can make them uncomfortable. As Vonda Skinner Skelton says, "Studies show that eye contact of more than 10 seconds is considered rude and challenging, whether it’s from the stage or in a one-on-one conversation." Have you ever had such an experience? How did it make you feel?
If I'm conversing with someone who stares to long, I wonder if they're trying to hypnotize me, or if they see a zit on the end of my nose. I'm likely to take a step back or excuse myself and walk away.
What of those who focus on the back wall or exit signs when they speak? It would sap the sparkle from what I have to say. A wall has no emotion. A wall can't return a smile. Perhaps the exit sign reminds the speaker they'll soon be done and be able to scoot out the door.
Whether speaking to a group, or one on one, we need to use tact. It's said that smiles are contagious. My high school drama teacher challenged us to smile and say "hi" to our peers as we walked to and from class and see what happened. I still find the shock on some of their faces when I said, "Hi," humorous, but guess what? They smiled back and responded in like fashion.
When I was young and shy, that simple exercise helped me take a step out of my selfish behavior. To love on those around me. It was life changing. Whether you're a speaker or not, I challenge you to make eye contact with someone you don't know … and smile! It can go a long way to lifting a heart that's heavy.
And you speakers out there, the next time you have an audience, make eye contact and smile.
John 13:34, "A new command I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Lord, use us to bring your word to a hurting people, and help us not to be afraid. Give us courage and strength beyond our own, so that you would be glorified, in Jesus name. Amen.