themighty logo

To the People Who Get Frustrated When I Don’t Make Eye Contact

They say eyes are the windows to a soul. Maybe that’s why I don’t like looking people in the eyes so much. It’s like I’m letting them see everything I’m thinking, like I am letting them see what makes me me, and I don’t like that. 

Eyes are like deep, dark pools in a way. When I look at them, it’s like I am being pulled into them, down down down, ’til I cant breathe or see or think. It is as horrid as it sounds. I know some people (like my parents) get frustrated when people like my brother or I don’t want or see the need to make eye contact. I will sometimes respond to my parents when they say something to me or they ask a question, but I won’t look at them, and they get annoyed at me. 

They say not looking a person in the eyes when they are talking to you is a sign of disrespect. I say expecting, and requiring, people like me or my brother, who are uncomfortable or who literally fear looking people in the eyes, to look at them in their eyes when they are talking is ridiculous. It’s like expecting someone who is afraid of heights to go stand on the top of the Empire State Building with you. It’s just plain not going to happen.

I do get where they are coming from about it. If someone isn’t looking at the person who is talking, it is automatically assumed they are not listening. But, fun fact, I can’t not listen even if I wanted to. My brain catches onto every single word or noise that is around me and amplifies it. So just because I am not looking at the speaker doesn’t mean I am trying to be disrespectful or that I am not paying attention. Some days it is just too much for me. Sometimes I am already somewhat overwhelmed, and adding even more things, like facial cues, that I have to interpret is simply too much for me to have to try and deal with. 

So, next time you see someone who won’t or can’t look straight at you, don’t get frustrated. Sometimes people can only deal with so much at once.

Abby (right) and her brother
Abby (right) and her brother

Follow this journey on Life As An Autistic Teenager.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.