6 Ways to Fake Eye Contact
Eye contact can be hard for autistic people. For some of us, it feels invasive; for others, it makes it hard to process what people are saying to us. NTs don’t understand this because they’ve been taught that everyone should make eye contact and anyone who won’t meet their eyes is not to be trusted. For those times when you have to interact with a boss, coworker, landlord, or anyone else who won’t understand, I present to you my favorite techniques for faking eye contact.
This is by far the easiest trick, and it can be done any time you’re outside in daylight. Put on a pair of sunglasses and just point your face in the general direction of whoever is talking to you. You might actually be looking over their shoulder or at their shirt or at their hair, but as long as your head is up and pointed toward them, most NTs will assume you’re looking at their eyes. Even on a cloudy day, you can claim your eyes are just really sensitive and slip on your shades. Even before I got my diagnosis, I lived in my sunglasses because they allowed me to be comfortable without seeming rude.
Look at their glasses
If the person talking to you wears glasses, this is a great option, and it’s really natural for some people. Focus on the frames of their glasses, or on the lenses, if that’s comfortable. I find that I can usually look at the bottom half of the lens or the top of the frames without looking at their eyes. I think I learned this when I was a kid at the dentist – I’d watch the reflection of my mouth in his safety glasses, never actually seeing his eyes.
Focus on a nose, cheek, or eyebrow
Another way you can fake eye contact is to focus on a part of the face near the eye. The most convincing way is probably looking at the bridge of the nose, but if that’s too small a target for you or too close to the eyes, move down to the end of the nose. You can also try focusing on the cheek under the eye or the person’s eyebrow.
Watch their mouth
This may actually be my favorite technique. You wouldn’t think that NTs could mistake this for eye contact, but I do it almost all the time and they seem fine with it. When someone’s talking to me, watching their mouth helps me to process what they’re saying, and it keeps me focused on their face, which seems to be enough for them most of the time.
Make Intermittent Eye Contact
I know, this isn’t “faking”, but it’s so useful. If you can keep your head up and look at something in the region of their face, plus meet their eyes for a moment here and there, most NTs won’t even notice anything “off”. You only need to flit your eyes to theirs for just a moment, and then you can go back to looking at their mouth or hair or whatever. I know this is easier for some people than for others, but it’s a good technique to try if you can.
Bonus tip for haircuts: Look in the mirror
Try looking at your barber/stylist in the mirror when you’re getting a haircut. I can’t explain why, but the mirror seems to make eye contact feel less intense to me. Also, using a mirror, as long as you’re looking roughly *at* them, they can’t tell if you’re really making eye contact or not.
The most important part of faking eye contact is to not look like you’re actively avoiding it. Don’t duck or turn your head away, or stare at your shoes or something. And you don’t need to fake eye contact all the time! It’s ok to avoid eye contact if it bothers you. This list is just for times when you need to interact with someone who might not understand.
How do you handle eye contact? Do you have other tips for dealing with it?