One of the greater challenges of being an autistic professional in a neurotypical world is the expectation of making eye contact during conversations. For a neurotypical person, eye contact is a positive and reassuring behavior. But for the autist, it can be extremely uncomfortable, or even overwhelming.
Some can manage to make eye contact, but it can be even more disconcerting for the other person, who may describe the experience as like being studied or analyzed more than conversed with. If eye contact isn’t going to add value to the conversation, or worse yet, diminish its value, we need other ways to help our colleagues to feel engaged.
This is not an easy problem to solve. Some will have an easier time of it than others. Some of us have developed a mask that we wear, to mimic the behaviors of successful neurotypical people, rather than utilizing them in an intuitive and natural way.
If you’re one of those lucky people who gets to work remotely, there is a trick for video conferences. Set your conference software up such that your own camera view is the maximized window, and other participants get smaller panes. When you engage in the call, it’ll be more like you’re looking at yourself, and thus far less stressful. But you’ll still have peripheral view of other participants.
But if your meeting is in-person, the task is more daunting. The person to whom you are speaking may expect eye contact from you to gauge your engagement level and your sincerity. Omitting eye contact may be interpreted as apathy, or even dishonesty.
But there are other behaviors that you can incorporate to convey the same things.