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The Calming Power of Eye Contact
By Amanda MacMillan, Prevention
August 1, 2007

Next time you're trying to settle down a distraught friend or loved one, say this: "Look at me!" Eye contact will quickly help her regain composure, says Mardi Kidwell, PhD, a communications professor at the University of New Hampshire. "When a person is sobbing or yelling, she may not interact rationally," says Kidwell. Focusing on your gaze forces her to come back to reality; it's very grounding.

Kidwell's research examined how law-enforcement officials often successfully use eye contact to soothe distressed or hysterical suspects and emergency workers. "It's the first step to listening and obeying--whether they know it consciously or not," she says. The trick is to get into the person's line of sight, tell her to take a deep breath, and don't let her look away until she acknowledges your words.

I do this with my kids, particularly when they were younger and hurt themselves. I would hold their face gently and say over and over "look at me, look at mommy, take a deep breath and look at me". It did work, as they calmed down a lot faster.
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