Don’t Look at Me Like That!


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.



Some time ago, I had a client in my office who would NOT look at me.  Even when I spoke his name, he would not make eye contact. We went through the entire first session with him looking off to the side, down at the floor, or even closing his eyes when he spoke.

Such behavior can say many things, and my job is to figure out exactly what that is.

Maybe he’s shy.

Maybe he’s a liar.

Maybe he’s fearful of revealing something shameful.

When I finally, very gently, asked him why he couldn’t or wouldn’t look at me, he turned so red that I regretted my question; however, I’ve learned to wait out such situations, because I really needed the answer if we were going to make any progress.

Finally, he looked up.  He was a nice-looking guy, middle-aged, normal in most ways that I could see. What he said  was this:

“I grew up being told not to look at my mother ‘that way,’ to keep my eyes off the girls, that looking someone in the eye was a man’s way of challenging authority. A lot of stuff like that. It was considered rude, and I still can’t do it  without feeling as if I’m being completely inappropriate. It’s one of the reasons I’m here. I work with people, and I need to be able to look at them.”

As he spoke, his eyes once again slanted off to the left, and his eyelids closed about halfway. He’d mastered the technique of looking without looking directly.

“What is it you do?”  I asked.

“I’m a teacher. I work with high school kids. I learned recently that behind my back they call me ‘Mr.Eyes’ because I rarely look at any of them  straight on.  I need to get this fixed. Can you help me? “

“Sure,” I said. But inside, I was wondering how. This was a new one for me. But I’ve read and researched, and he’s making great progress. The other, as we finished up, he shook my hand, looked me straight in the eyes, and thanked me for helping him learn to tell himself the truth about all the things he’d learned as a kid growing up.

After he left, I did a little victory dance.

7 thoughts on “Don’t Look at Me Like That!

  1. Fascinating! I used to work in human services with kids with autism, ADHD, and the like. I had many clients in the Hispanic communities of Harrisburg, PA. Many times, when I talked to them, they refused to look at me. I assumed they were being defiant until someone explained that kids in that culture are told NOT to look into people’s eyes; it’s a challenge or a show of disrespect. It just amazes me how differently we are raised and how differently we interpret others’ actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Direct eye contact is considered a challenge in some cultures. Also, someone told me once that if a dog seems threatening, it’s a mistake to look him in the eye. I leaned a lot of different things while I was working with that client.


  2. My son in law has this issue of never quite looking at you. It can feel disconcerting. With him it almost feels like a shyness issue, though generally he isn’t shy, so I don’t really know.

    Liked by 1 person

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