@SRSAutistic asked, “How do NT’s feel when you don’t look them in the eye? (direct eye contact)” If it’s a peer-to-peer or comfortable family relationship, there’s no problem. If it’s a supervisor-to-subordinate or parent-to-child relationship, it could be a problem. (Although, supervisors tend to drive home points by not looking at their subordinates.) The problem they take from it is that you’re not listening. A lot rides on context, body language, physical position between the speakers, personal knowledge implicitly understood between the speakers, and the matter of what’s being communicated.How do NTs feel when you don't look them in the eye (direct eye contact)?
So, I’m not autistic—so far as I know—and I have trouble with direct eye contact. The biggest problem I have run into with people who make intense eye contact is that they use it as a way to establish their authority or to push around their agenda. That says more about the person than what’s being said.
As for myself, when I’m sharing something important or complex, in casual situations I generally tend to look off past the person’s left ear. I haven’t noticed if it bothers people or not. When I’m ready to listen, I glance at them, briefly making eye contact, as if to say ‘your turn’. But if the other person is saying something important, I tend to look slightly down and to the right—again, their left. If I want more time to think about what they’ve said before I reply—and it’s an intense conversation, and assuming I know the person—I’ll say, “give me a moment,” and may even shut my eyes. I just appreciate having that space in which to consider fully what’s being said before answering. Why is this not autistic? Maybe it is, except, if needed, I can maintain direct eye contact the entire time it’s appropriate. And in professional situations, I do.
I recently had an interview with a woman with whom I just could not mirror. We ended the interview while engaged in a very uncomfortable staring contest. (Although, I did try and look relaxed while smiling throughout it.) Surprisingly, she didn’t say I wouldn’t be hearing from them. But I called a few days later and withdrew my name. This would have been someone who would have been reporting to me and it just struck me as the wrong foot to get started off on.
I really appreciated what @Atrapa Almas had to say about eye contact being a multichannel skill. Thanks.