Why Producer Brian Grazer Makes Eye Contact With Everyone He Meets

It all started with “an accident.”

To kick off Season Two of The Thrive Global Podcast with iHeart Radio and Sleep Number, Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington sat down with Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer, whose film and television credits include Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Arrested Development, Parenthood, and many more. In a wide-ranging conversation, Huffington and Grazer spoke about everything from how to have a good conversation to Grazer’s relationship with his phone.

In a world where more and more people are constantly staring at their phones, Grazer is focused on eye contact, which he explores in his forthcoming book, Eye Contact: The Power of One on One.

His fascination with eye contact began accidentally. Grazer explained that, every two weeks for 30 years, he has participated in what he calls “curiosity conversations,” where he sits down with someone new just to learn from them. “The curiosity conversations really feel better to me than even successful movies,” he told Huffington.

“I wasn’t thinking about the tool of eye contact itself,” he said. “I just knew that I really enjoyed these meetings and I was willing to do anything to take time to do these curiosity conversations.”

Then he had an experience with a woman who worked for him and his wife, Veronica, that changed his perception of these conversations and sparked his interest in eye contact and human connection. “It was an accident that happened about two and a half years ago,” he said. In passing, the woman told Veronica, “I love Brian because every time he has contact with me, he looks me directly in the eyes and it makes me feel like a human being.”

Grazer found this comment particularly powerful, and thought about some of his best curiosity conversations—including discussions with Bill Gates, Jonas Salk, Larry Page and Isaac Asimov—in a new light. “They were great because we were connecting, we were looking into each other’s eyes,” Grazer said. “They wouldn’t have had power or meaning or even success if eye contact wasn’t the bridge to these conversations.”

According to Grazer, “without eye contact, you really can’t create connectivity or intimacy or compassion.” He told Huffington, “When you’re really looking at somebody, even as we’re doing right now, there’s something going on.”

Grazer sees his upcoming book on eye contact as a way to remind people how much they’re missing by staring at their screens. In today’s modern, digital world, Grazer said, “Kids are predominately…on screens. Mostly mobile phones, of course. It’s not bad, it’s just what it is. It prevents real connectivity.”

Grazer and Huffington discussed how people experience things like travel and concerts through their screens, constantly taking photos and videos, prompting Grazier to suggest, “Let’s be more present. Let’s put the phone down.”

To hear the full conversation on iHeartRadio, click here.

You can also listen to the Thrive Global podcast internationally for free on iTunes and Stitcher.

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