Conversations with persons with lazy eyes
August 16, 2005 3:14 PM   Subscribe

How to politely converse with a person who has a lazy eye?

My new job will put me in a situation in which I will have many close conversations with a person who has a very lazy eye. That person is warm, friendly, and enjoyable to be around and will have a supervisory role over my work to some degree.

Up until now I've been trying to focus on the non-lazy eye but I find that I focus pretty intensely on it. I believe I normally focus alternately on the whole head and both of people's eyes. I've tried focusing on the whole head, but my gaze inevitably drifts towards the lazy eye.

Anybody out there have any tips from first- or second-hand experience? And, if first-hand, what is it like to have a lazy eye?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total)
See this recent question.
posted by gorillawarfare at 3:23 PM on August 16, 2005

Focus on the bridge right above the nose, and let your eyes relax so that your sight is slightly blurred. I find the blurriness is a good technique to deal with my instinctual distraction looking at faces of people who are wall-eyed, have a glass eye, etc. as well as my overall discomfort at looking at anyone face to face.
posted by Rothko at 3:25 PM on August 16, 2005

Look at the eye that is looking at you. Everybody tends to have a dominant eye, which is the one you'd look through if someone handed you a telescope or a paper tube. If you are talking with someone and you're not looking at their dominant eye, they will subconsciously scratch their cheek and point to the dominant eye, or rub their forehead in a manner that covers the non-dominant eye, to get you to switch. Once you're aware of this, you will be surprised how often it occurs. It's just something I've picked up on--anyone else notice this?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:43 PM on August 16, 2005

Seconding weapons-grade.
posted by interrobang at 3:55 PM on August 16, 2005

Thirded wgp - I dated someone with a lazy eye for a while.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:14 PM on August 16, 2005

Previously. This question is surprisingly common.
posted by abcde at 5:30 PM on August 16, 2005

Can any of you tell which eye someone is looking at, when they're talking to you?

No-one else can, either.
posted by Jairus at 5:31 PM on August 16, 2005

I have what you call a "lazy eye". As was pointed out in this post, the correct term is strabismus. The term "lazy eye" actually refers to visual acuity. I can see quite well with my "lazy" eye, in fact my dominant eye (left) is astigmatic, my "lazy" eye (right) is not. It wasn't until I was 35 that I heard the term for what I have, exotropia, or in my case alternating exotropia. Whichever eye I am not using turns outward. I cannot focus both of my eyes on single point, so I can't acheive fusion, so I can't see 3D.

I was born with crossed eyes. You see with your brain and not with your eyes, and because of the bad input from my eyes my stereo vision never developed. I had surgery to correct my crossed eyes when I was 5. Cosmetically my eyes looked normal until my late teenage years.

I can sum up my first-hand experience like this: What does 3D look like?
posted by Fat Guy at 5:38 PM on August 16, 2005

Get a fucking life. This is like asking how should I converse with someone who has a birthmark, scar, missing limb, etc. Be polite; don't stare and treat them like any other person. Get over it.
posted by caddis at 6:28 PM on August 16, 2005

In fairness, he recognizes it's bad, and he is asking for our help in getting over it.
posted by Hildago at 7:06 PM on August 16, 2005

In fairness, he or she has is freaked out by someone who is different. The world is filled with different people. You should not need to have your hand held each time you come upon a new variety of difference. This person needs to just get over it and treat their new boss like anyone else.
posted by caddis at 7:15 PM on August 16, 2005

Caddis- eye contact is a big part of communication, unlike wheelchair contact, scar contact or moley-moley-moley contact. Eye contact is also an uncomfortable thing for lots of people, so it's especially important to get it right. This is not a matter of "don't stare at the third eye", it's "which eye is the one I should be addressing?" Relax, already.
posted by fish tick at 7:24 PM on August 16, 2005

Caddis, you're not expected to look someone in the deformed limb when you talk to them, you are expected to look people in the eye, and if you're not used to looking at someone with a problematic eye, it can be awkward.

Anonymous, I suggest looking them in the good eye when you talk to them, and you'll soon get used to it. I imagine they're used to all sorts of reactions.
posted by tomble at 7:26 PM on August 16, 2005

Rothko's comment is great-- If there's something interesting or unusual on someone's face that I don't want to stare at rudely, or even if someone is really intense and stares me down and I want to turn away, blurring my eyes let's me look straight at them and listen better.
posted by themadjuggler at 7:42 PM on August 16, 2005

My mother has a lazy eye (that's what she calls it, although Fat Guy's description sounds almost exactly like what she has). She kind of finds it hilarious when people get concerned... not in a mean way, but just in a sort of delighted, I'm-so-glad-you-care-but-don't-worry-about-it kind of way.

Much like anything unusual about a person, you will stop noticing it as you get to know the supervisor and other things about that person start to form your dominant image. Relax and give yourself permission to look at the non-dominant eye once in a while. It won't detract if you shift your focus from eye to eye, as we all do during eye contact, but it will detract if you suddenly get a stricken, guilty look on your face when you do.
posted by carmen at 9:34 PM on August 16, 2005

My eye becomes lazy when I'm sleepy or drunk. I have never noticed people looking me in that eye rather than the "good" one. (In fact my vision is just fine out of either.) I'm not saying they don't do it -- I'm sure they do. I'm just saying that I haven't noticed, probably because they're still obviously looking me "in the eyes".
posted by Aknaton at 10:20 PM on August 16, 2005

Your supervisor may have already solved the problem for you. I came at the problem from the other direction. I could never maintain eye contact because, unless I closed one eye, I could never focus on a single object—my eyes would ping-pong back and forth. My solution was to feign hearing problems which gave me a reason to cock my head to turn my ear toward the person. This provides cover for not maintaining eye contact. OTOH, focus on the dominant eye. I'm going to give the blurring technique a try myself so I'd give that a shot too.
posted by Suck Poppet at 6:29 AM on August 17, 2005

weapons-grade, thanks, BTW. Myself, as someone who rarely looks anyone in the face [that's a topic for a different long discussion, I'm sure], have noticed this behaviour often and I now have it figured out!
posted by shepd at 10:05 AM on August 17, 2005

How to politely converse with a person who has a lazy eye?

Don't split infinitives; some people with strabismus, as well as other people, find it to be rude.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2005

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