Day 27: Jessica

I don't leave the office today, so I don't have opportunities to make eye contact. But, I'm planning to go to the climbing gym tonight, and my intention is set on asking someone there.

I walk in with my friends, stuff my things into a cubby, and set right off to scout the place for a participant. I walk past a group of folks sitting on the mat, watching one of their friends climb. I notice the person with short hair and consider asking them, keep walking a bit, around the corner, where I don't see many people, and then I realize that the person I saw is the person I'm going to ask. Something just switched from "want to" to "will" and I walk over and sit down next to her.


"Hi," she says as she turns and looks at me.

"I'm doing an experiment in which every day I ask a stranger to make eye contact with me for 60 seconds. Is that something you're willing to do with me?"

She says she'll do it.

I tell her no looking away and no talking once I start the timer. She asks if she can blink, and I tell her she can. I also tell her she can breathe. :)

About 20 seconds in she laughs a small laugh. About 40 seconds in she laughs a medium laugh. Her eyes are bright and light-hearted.

The timer beeps and I give her one of the new leave-behind cards.

I tell her the card has the blog URL on it and ask if can use her first name and picture for it. She consents.

Her name is Jessica and this is her photo:

I ask if she has any questions and she says "nope!" I tell her my email is on the blog if she wants to follow up for any reason, then I thank her and return to my friends for a night of climbing.

Leave-Behind: Upgraded

The new leave-behind cards are in my possession! The front has a picture of my eye. The back has the project name and block URL with space to write a custom message.

From now on, instead of a piece of paper with a hand-written URL, I will be handing one of these to each participant.

Day 26: Greg

First day in Portland. I'm super busy with work so I don't go out in the afternoon. In the evening I take a break and walk to a nearby place called Cacao Drink Chocolate, having decided in advance that I'm going to choose someone with whom to make eye contact at this place.

I walk in and order my drink. There's a mixed group of three at one table, three girls at another table, and a guy reading alone. The mixed group is annoying to listen to, so I decide not to approach them. It's between the three girls and the reading guy, who puts down his book and is either just taking a break or getting ready to leave. I move in on him.

My approach is a little awkward, because as I get up to go to his table he gets up and walks away from it to bus it. I stop him mid-stride and ask him if he's leaving. He says that he's going home, and I tell him not to leave yet, and then I sit down at his table and wait for him to return.

He asks how he can help me, and I tell him about the experiment. He asks if it's a theatre project and I tell him it's not. He asks if he can ask why I'm doing it and I tell him I'll explain after we've made eye contact. He agrees to participate and I start the timer.

Our session is relaxed. For my part, I am intentionally trying to connect with him as deeply as I can, as deeply as he'll allow. I can sense that while he is an active participant he is also somewhat guarded.

We talk about my motivations for the project and get introduced. His name is Greg. He agrees to let me use his photo.

Greg has a theatre background and we talk about LMEC from that perspective. We talk about how LMEC can be considered performance art and the ways in which I am playing a role when I engage people for LMEC. There is a script (that I know and they don't) and both people are playing a role -- initiator and participant -- in the scene. The premise provides structure for improvisation, and since we haven't met before we really don't know what's going to happen. This is different from two actors playing together. In such a case both people have more context: they know the rules, they know what is motivating the other person to engage in the scene, and they may even have met and acted together before. The uncertainty and variability in LMEC is especially present for the participant because they don't see the scene coming, I intentionally withhold some context from them (namely, I don't answer the "why?" question until after I get a "yes" or "no" from them), and they don't know what will come after the eye contact session.

Through my conversation with Greg I realize that this is an experiment to see how unguarded, deep, and vulnerable a participant stranger will get with me through eye contact (and conversation) when placed in an intimate, unexpected situation where they don't 100% know my motivations.

We also talk about Greg's personal experience in the session, particularly how he was in fact remaining guarded even while agreeing to participate. He is aware of his own shy tendencies and guarded behavior, and he'd like to be less like that. Our interaction gave him an opportunity to look at this aspect of himself and reflect on it.

After our unexpectedly great conversation I get his contact info and we part ways.

Thanks, Greg, for the stimulating perspective on LMEC!

Day 25: Mike

Today I am leaving Victoria BC and heading to Portland. In the morning and early afternoon I'm at home packing. Now I'm on the M.V. Coho Black Ball Ferry Line bound for Port Angeles.

I will ask someone to make eye contact on this ship.

For most of the trip I'm sharing a table with an older man. He's sitting across from me. We haven't exchanged any words or made eye contact since I asked if I could sit with him before the ship departed.

There are many different kinds of people on this ship. All ages, many different ethnicities. I strongly consider asking a child. I think this is a good environment in which to do it. But man, asking a child, approaching a parent and asking them if it's OK if I ask their child to participate in this experiment, makes me nervous.

I think about asking him to make eye contact but then a kid (high school aged) engages him in conversation and I don't have a good opening anymore. He seems more social than I first guessed since he started talking with this kid. The kid goes to the washroom and I could ask the man now, but I don't want to. I decide to go explore the ship.

When I leave the table I thank him for sharing the space with me. "Come again," he says with a smile. Seems to be nicer than I originally thought when I first approached him. Maybe his mood has improved. Or maybe his impression of me has changed now that I shared a table with him and didn't make trouble. (I am assuming maybe he thought I looked like a trouble maker. Who the fuck knows, right?)

I can feel time running out and I just need to pick someone.

I check out the main seating area, cafeteria, and observation deck. In the cafeteria I spy a guy sitting alone at a table using his phone. He is darker skinned, a bit round, and has a moustache. I haven't asked someone who looks like this before and make note of him. The observation deck is too dark to make good eye contact or take a photo, so I rule it out. After making a complete round I decide to return to the guy in the cafeteria.

"Hi," I say as I approach him and sit down at his table, in the chair diagonally opposite him.

"I'm doing an experiment in which I ask a stranger to make eye contact with me every day for 60 seconds."


"Is this something you'd be willing to do with me?"

He hesitates a moment, and then:

"No... I don't think so. Not today."

He seems kind of down. He seems unhappy.

"OK," I respond, then tell him that I'm writing about my experiences and ask if I can know is first name so I can use it when I write about this encounter.

He thinks for a moment, shrugs, and nods in approval.

"Mike," he tells me. I introduce myself and shake his hand.

I thank him for his time, wish him a good evening, and leave. I walk to the other side of the cafeteria, out of his line of sight, and sit down to write my notes on the encounter. In my notebook I find the leave-behind I wrote out earlier for today's participant but neglected to give to Mike. I finish my notes and decide to walk back over to Mike and give him the leave-behind even though we didn't make eye contact.

He's focusing on his phone. Leaning over the railing next to his table I say "hey, Mike." He looks up.

"I forgot to give this to you," and I hand him the piece of paper. "It's where i'm documenting my project and you an check it out later if you're interested."

"Thanks," and he smiles just a little.

"Have a good night."

Day 24: Asha

I partied last night, so today I wake up late. Since then I've been out doing errands and stuff all day, and haven't made a moment to make eye contact someone.

It's nighttime now and Kasi and I are driving home. I know we have dinner guests coming over tonight who I have never met, so I decide that I'll walk into the house and immediately approach one of them and ask them to make eye contact with me.

I walk through the backdoor into the kitchen and see our guests. The guy guest is busy making a pizza and the girl guest seems unoccupied, so I put down my things and walk right up to her.

"Hi, will you make eye contact with me for 60 seconds?"

"Yes!" she says, smiling.

"Great," I reply, also with a smile.

I lead her into the living room and we sit on the couch. I explain the rules and we begin.

Her gaze is warm and inviting. I feel very relaxed with her and I sense that she is relaxed with me, too. Quickly I fall into a comfortable space with her. Around halfway she smiles, then laughs, and I do the same.

When the timer beeps I give her a leave-behind and explain the project. I learn that her name is Asha and she enthusiastically allows me to use her photo for this post.

We hug and return to the kitchen for an evening of pizza making and shenanigans.

Day 23: Ken

Today I am having trouble managing my energy. It's a busy day and I am also feeling quite stressed. I've been stressed all week. I've planned a number of meetings and end up doing a spontaneous energy healing session in the middle of the day. I don't know when I am going to make eye contact with someone.

After my last meeting it's late in the afternoon and I am headed to do an errand on the way back to my office. While walking down the street and I see an Asian man sitting in a public space. I'm focused on my errand and decide not to approach him. On my way back I look to see if he's still there -- now I'm ready to make eye contact with him -- but he's gone. I continue to look for opportunities in the few remaining blocks to my office but don't see anyone with whom I really want to make eye contact, and I'm not in the mood to simply accost someone in a way that I feel will be thought of inconvenient or inconsiderate by them and get rejected.

I return to my office to finish for the day.

Now, it's dark. I'm not particularly excited about this, but I'm determined to have someone to write about today, and I'm going to do it before I go home.

I scout for an LMEC participant as I leave the office and walk across the street to order Thai food to-go. There's a man sitting alone in the restaurant but I don't feel like approaching him. I am carrying a lot of things tonight and I decide to put some of them in my car and then find someone to approach while I wait for my food. Upon leaving the Thai restaurant I notice an Asian man standing near a parking pay station, just hanging out. I decide that I will go to my car and come back and if he is still there I will approach him.

I return and he's still there.

"Hi." *pause* "I'm doing an experiment in which I ask a stranger to make eye contact with me for 30 seconds."

While I'm saying this he takes out the headphone in his right ear. I didn't notice when I approached him that he was wearing an earbud.

And I guess I am a bit nervous since I misspoke. I can feel it in my voice as I'm talking to him. I correct myself.

"Er, not 30, 60 seconds."

"OK, sure," he says.

I tell him how it works: the timer, no looking away, no talking.

He asks if it's for a personal project, and I tell him that it is.

We begin. For this session we are standing on the sidewalk, neither of us leaning against anything. I notice that he has brown eyes. His facial expression changes subtly throughout the session. He rocks back and forth a bit.

When the timer beeps I talk a little more about the project and give him a leave-behind. He agrees to let me use his name and picture. He takes his hood off for the photo.

His name is Ken. I ask him if he has any questions.

"No. It's all here, right?" he asks, indicating the blog on the leave-behind. (I can't remember what I said in response.)

I ask him what he's up to just hanging out here tonight. He says he's waiting for his wife and points to the salon. I guess she works there. I ask if they have Halloween plans and he says he is planning to take her out to dinner tonight.

I thank him for participating and wish him well, after which I walk down the street, find a bench, and sit down to write my notes about this experience.


When I finish my notes I walk back in the direction I came to return to the Thai place. I notice a couple crossing the street, the woman holding the man's left arm. She looks back at me, smiles, and laughs. I recognize the man as Ken. That must be his wife. I assume he has just told her about our experience.

"See you later, Ken!" I shout at them.

"Later!" he calls back at me.

She laughs again.

Day 22: Onur

Every day when I walk into the office I am greeted with brief a charming smile and a nod from this fellow who sits at a desk facing the door.

As far as I can recall, this has been happening for the last two weeks.

Earlier this week it occurred to me to ask him to make eye contact with me.

We haven't spoken more words to each other than "hello" so while we're not 100% strangers we're still essentially strangers. Since we haven't been introduced nor had a conversation with each other, this satisfies my criteria of counting our interaction towards my daily eye contact practice.

So this morning I come into the office, put down my things at my desk, and walk over to him.

"Hey! Can I interrupt you for a few minutes?"


"Will you make eye contact with me for 60 seconds?"

Boom. Straight for it. No "unusual request" or "I'm doing an experiment" lead-in.

"Of course!"

What a delightful response!

"Great. I'll tell you what it's about afterwards."

I wish I hadn't said this. Why can't it just be about wanting to make eye contact, to connect, with another person?

Anyway, I start the timer and we begin.

I feel like I could get lost in this man's gaze. Immediately I felt relaxed and like we sank into that zone where the distance between us closes and we're both inhabiting the space between where our physical bodies are. His gaze is warm, caring, empathetic, and very steady, reliable.

After we're done we get introduced. His name is Onur.

Now I tell him about the experiment, or rather, my daily practice. He asks me how people respond and I share some of my experiences with him. We talk about how people in different cities and cultures have different eye contact practices. I tell him that it's not difficult for me to make eye contact with people when passing them on the street in Victoria and Portland. However, in Seattle people do not tend to make eye contact. Onur says that Canadians are not generally adverse to making eye contact.

My experience in Tokyo and Seoul is that people really do not make eye contact (with me, anyway). I am sure there are many reasons for this, and perhaps one reason is that because those cities are more crowded people therefore have less personal space, and to make eye contact with someone is to be in their personal space. If making eye contact with a stranger may be considered an invasion of their already limited personal space, perhaps that is why it is avoided.

Onur tells me that many people in Turkey will make eye contact on the street. I already want to go to Turkey, and hearing this makes me want to go there even more.

He consents to the use of his name and photograph, so I take his picture.

My reasons for asking specific people to make eye contact with me vary. Sometimes I am testing an assumption or hypothesis, like "I believe this person will reject me." Sometimes I ask because I realize that the thought of asking makes me nervous, so I confront that. Sometimes I ask a person because I am attracted to something about them.

This time, with Onur, my motivation was simple: I just wanted to make eye contact with him. I thought he would make delightful eye contact. And I was right.

Day 21: Srid

I'm at the coffee shop with Jeff and while we're talking I notice a guy with his back to me sitting at the bar using his computer.

I know this is the guy to ask.

Jeff leaves. I write a leave-behind while my target relocates to a table. I wait for him to settle in a bit and then I approach him.


I sit down in the chair opposite him.

"I'm doing an experiment. Every day I ask a stranger to make eye contact with me for 60 seconds. Is that something you'd be willing to do with me?"

"Sure, if you'll tell me what this is about afterwards."

"Of course I will."

"How will we know when to start?"

"I have a timer. It'll beep when the timer starts and beep when the time is over. During the eye contact we won't look away or talk. OK?"

"OK," he says.

"Here we go," and I start the timer.

We begin making eye contact. It feels relaxed. Both our faces are relaxed, not smiling. About 20 seconds in he smiles, then laughs, then says:

"Are we in love?"

I smile but say nothing. He fidgets a little, changing his sitting position. I look at one of his eyes then the other. I can tell that he changes which eye of mine he is looking at a few times. He seems like an analytical person to me. I do not feel like I can read his emotions. About 40 seconds in he says:

"I'm getting bored."

Again I say nothing. Until now he's been leaning forward, sitting in what I interpret to be an engaged posture. Now he sits back a bit. Despite being bored he doesn't break eye contact, so we keep going until the timer expires.

"That's it?" he asks.

I am surprised! I thought for sure that he thought that was longer than 60 seconds. Turns out, that felt like around 30 seconds to him.

As promised I explain my motivations to him. Unlike wither other participants I feel like he may be sitting in judgement of my reasons for doing this experiment as I talk to him, but that's just my impression and I cannot be sure. I suspect that there may be some differences in our personalities and communication styles and that may be factoring into my impression.

When describing my motivations I talk about all of the facets I usually do. I mention this being a vulnerability exercise, both in terms of approaching strangers and in making eye contact. I talk about how I get an adrenaline high simply by initiating a conversation with a stranger, and it doesn't matter whether i get rejected or we actually make eye contact, either way I come out of the experience feeling high, awake, and relaxed.

"So this isn't really about the eye contact," he observes, checking this with me.

"Well, it is and it isn't," I tell him.

IT IS: The eye contact is important because it's something that I personally desire and seek out because I like the connection (potential) that comes from it. I need to feel personally, vulnerably connected to people, even strangers. My life is richer and more fulfilling that way.

IT ISN'T: The eye contact is just a setup. With respect to being a vulnerability exercise, practice talking to strangers (breaking the ice), and an exercise in rejection, the eye contact doesn't really matter. The important thing from this perspective is to ask strangers something they could reasonably say "yes" or "no" to so that the possibility of rejection is present, yet the possibility of a "yes" is also very real.

That is, the thing I am asking them is something they may feel uncomfortable and/or vulnerable doing, so the possibility of a "no" is there, but it's not too uncomfortable or too awkward so the possibility that they will consent is likely, too. My request is (I think) outside of the comfort zone of many people but not so far that they won't reach for it.

As an example and hypothesis, I could probably ask strangers to play patty cake with me and get similar results to the eye contact experiment in terms of rejections, but it wouldn't be as personally fulfilling as making eye contact with people. From my perspective playing patty cake is less intimate and more silly, and I want the more intimate, less silly experience of making eye contact with people. (I think the world benefits from it.)

(Another hypothesis is that as long as I am using the experiment framework people are more likely to say "yes" to doing all kinds of things. For example, "will you do 10 jumping jacks with me?" is another one I've thought of doing. Which, again, I am not doing because I'm going for intimacy instead of silly.)

I say these things to him. He remarks that framing the request as an experiment casts it in a certain light, gives the other person a certain kind of perception about what is going on. I agree, and say that using the word "experiment" and talking about it like that is like using training wheels and makes it safer for people to participate. It's quite different from approaching someone and saying "will you make eye contact with me for 60 seconds?" with no other context.

This guy seems to get it. He gets something about what I'm doing. It is interesting that with most people their response, at least during our conversation, is like "wow, so interesting!" and this fellow's mind is analyzing and deconstructing it right now.

I ask him if I may use his first name and photograph on the blog, and he consents, so I take his picture.

I tell him my name and he tells me his.


We shake hands and I write down his name to make sure I have it.

Instead of accepting my leave-behind he takes a picture of it with his iPhone, so I keep the piece of paper.

He tells me that he thinks this experiment is very interesting. He tells me that he thinks he may do it himself. How cool! He is thinking about and dealing with fear (preemptive fear before interactions) and vulnerability in his own life, so what we have done today is very relevant to his own experiences. He likes what I am doing. I am so glad that I've brought this experience into his life today.

I thank Srid for participating and wish him a nice day. I leave him at his table and exit the cafe to head back to work feeling quite fulfilled.

Day 20: Jumana

Today was not an experiment. It was the real deal.

needed eye contact.


I am a mess. Today I am crashing. I am broken. This happens occasionally. I have a really emotional day in which I am not my usual self. Shame is usually involved. Also runaway expectations, those I put on myself and those I perceive from others, both real and imagined, can build up to the point of bursting. I can feel paralyzed, unable to do anything. I just have to drop everything. Whatever hit me last night is still there, and it's now worse. Here's what I am working with:

And I know I am not in my usual space because I am avoiding eye contact with people. Shame is definitely involved. When I am feeling ashamed I avoid eye contact. Shame does not like to be seen. It's going to be hard to approach someone about making eye contact while my sense of self-worth is low. Shit.


I go to the office but can't do anything. I have to leave. I pack up and head out for a walk. I'm going to a coffee shop. But before I get to one I realize that I'm hungry. I walk by a restaurant I've seen before and been thinking about trying, so I go in.

The girl working here greets me super nicely and I sit at the bar and we get to talking. Her presence is really refreshing to me, quite a nice change from being negative and stuck in my own head. I would enjoy her positive energy and engaging interest under normal circumstances but it is especially nice in my current state. I'm not totally coming out of my funk but I am feeling bouyed.

There's another girl who comes up to the bar and orders something, then returns to her table. I think she makes eye contact with me, or at least looks at me when she comes up. Maybe there is some interest? I note the way she's dressed and I like her outfit. She walks away.

Later she comes up to the bar again to leave. I do make brief eye contact with her this time and realized that I want to make more eye contact with her. Not just for the experiment. Not just to get it done and have something to write about for today. Not to push myself or test rejection. I need this. I want to make eye contact with her just for me. It's personal. And I just know she's going to say "yes."

This time I do not lead in with my usual "experiment-based" introduction. I go straight for the heart of it:

"Hey. Before you go, will you make eye contact with me for 60 seconds?"


We begin and sink into each other's eyes immediately. Her gaze is present and engaged. I can clearly tell when she's focusing on one of my eyes and then the other. It's much more obvious with her than other people for some reason. I feel like she's really here with me. Usually I am trying to get into the other person when I make eye contact, to sense what they are about, but today is different. Today I am trying to tell her something. I am trying to show her how I am upset and not well. I am trying to share with her how I feel. Our eye contact is just so pleasant and refreshing. Then the timer expires.

She tells me about the kind of day she's been having. She is also going through some challenging, vulnerable experiences and she felt right away that we were both communicating that with our gaze. I confirm that, indeed, I am having a tough time right now.

I ask her if I can use her name and photograph. She consents. I hand her a leave-behind and she asks what this is about. I give her a fast answer. I take her picture and she approves it. I write down her name. As she is leaving I tell her that I'd like to be in contact with her again, and if she'd also like that, she can find my email on the blog.

Thank you, Jumana. Thank you so much. Our eye contact didn't fix everything about my day, but it made it a lot better. I really enjoyed it.

P.S. Thank you, Arielle, for being kind and welcoming and chatting with me. That helped me feel better, too.

Day 19

Today I want to ask a guy to make eye contact with me.

But there will be no eye contact.

I go to the coffee shop in the morning. I bring my camera with me but the battery dies. I like to have the option to take participant portraits, so I don't ask anymore. The vibe in the coffee shop feels like this would be awkward to do there, anyway. (But why should that stop me?)

My camera is charged and I take it to lunch. I see a guy who I contemplate asking but decide not to ask him. I just want to eat. So I walk back to my office.

I don't really go out for the rest of the day. And I stay at work late. It's been a long day and now I just want to be left alone. As I leave work I think about going to a bar and asking someone there. But I don't. I don't want to.

I think that bouldering on the way home may help my mood. There's a small common area with chairs and cubby holes for people to store their things. I've never really hung out there but I've seen other people there. I've thought about asking someone at the climbing gym before. The common area may be the most convenient space in which to do it. It may also be my last chance to make this happen today.

I arrive at the climbing gym and bring my timer and camera inside with me. Usually, I don't bring anything. After some bouldering I sit in the common area. It's late at night and the gym is about to close. There aren't many people here, and those who are here aren't packing up. I mark some opportunities, some people who I consider approaching, but decide not to approach any of them. All of them are just to far out of my current comfort zone for me to approach them.

I leave the gym and go home. That's it. I'm not making eye contact with anyone today. I push myself, challenge myself, every damned day. Today is a day to forgive myself. But I still want to do something, have something to write. So I make eye contact with Rilakkuma.

I set the timer and everything. We don't look away and we don't speak.

After having made eye contact with a stranger every day (-1) for almost three weeks, it's so clear how different this is. I love Rilakkuma, but there isn't life in his eyes. Even when you are looking into the eyes of another person and they are looking at you, even if you're not moving, something is moving. There is motion. And Riku's eyes are so large and far apart. It's challenging to look into one of his eyes. It's so black. I find myself looking at his face, mostly. At his nose and mouth.

The timer expires.

This was silly, but I'm glad I did it.

Time to go to bed.