Intensifying Emotions

The third point that I came to realize about eye contact is particularly important for the performance of close-up magic. It is said by some that eye contact makes people like you more because you are giving them your attention. I think this is only partly true. Let me explain this through an observation of my own.

One day, while I was visiting my sister, her young son misbehaved and she responded naturally enough by reprimanding him. As she scolded him he constantly looked at the floor. At a certain point in her disciplining she said to him, "Look at me!" The boy looked up, made eye contact for a fraction of a second and immediately looked down again at the floor. He was avoiding eye contact. In this situation, eye contact and the attention it provided certainly did not make him happier!

Let s examine another ease. Two people are in love. They frequendy make eye contact. Seldom do they do this with fleeting glanccs; instead they gaze at cach other for long periods. Here, obviously, eye contact does make these lovers feel better.

I hese two examples are rather extreme, but they do illustrate my point; a point that you can also observe by studying less intense examples of eye contact in daily life. Through my limited study I have comc to the following conclusion: When the activc emotion is a pleasant one, people wish to make eye contact. The more pleasant the emotion, the more frequent and prolonged the eye contact will be. However, when the active emotion is unpleasant, people want to avoid eye contact; and the more unpleasant the emotion, the shorter and less frequent the eye contact will be, to the point where no eye contact is made at all.

I believe one can say that eve contact docs not ncccssarily make people feel better, but instead only strengthens the predominant emotion of the moment.

The use we can make of this knowledge is, I think, obvious. For instance, it is not unusual to approach a table and find that one person is not terribly interested in your performance. There can be a variety of reasons for this. Bur whatever the reason, this person isn't enjoying your magic. Given the negative sensation this individual is experiencing, eye contact will only intensify the feeling.

So, in such a case, during the first minute or two of performance 1 leel that you should make no eye contact whatsoever. Having avoided eye contact with this person, you have given him time to weigh his negative feelings against the qualities of your performance, and consequently these feelings will diminish (one would hope) rather than intensify. During this initial period the reluctant spectator gets a chance to see that the others in his party are having fun; and fun in a group is infectious. Given this, it is likely chat his negative attitude will slowly dissolve.

When you see that this person is becoming interested in the proceedings, you can try a moment of brief eye contact. As soon as the eyes meet, look at someone else immediately, limiting eye contact with the resistant spectator to the shortest time possible. He may not yet be feeling positive enough about your magic to make longer eye contact desirable. Later, when he is obviously having a good time, you can prolong eye contact slighdy or make it a bit more frequent. However, overall 1 think it better to remain 011 the sale side.

This course of action has, for me, been successful in winning over many spectators who initially looked the other way, but soon were watching my magic with great interest and having a lot of fun. In the end we were making eye contact, and in those eyes I saw reflected genuine joy. However, had I used eye contact without sensitivity, I'm certain these people would have felt even more unhappy at die end of my performance than thev were in the beginning. By waiting to make eye contact until they were receptive and enjoying the magic, I assured that this contact escalated their positive response and enjoyment.

Carefully used, the adverse aspects of eye contact can be turned to your advantage as well. Suppose someone is mildly heckling you. Respond with some comment that conveys in a gentle manner that you do not appreciate this type of interaction. This should communicate a slightly negative feeling.Then, il you see that these words were sufficient to resolve the problem, fine. But if not, you can employ some eye contact to increase your negative message—just enough to assure your point is understood.

The use of unpleasant eye contact must be practiced with great care and with as light a touch as possible; and only if you are sure the person is misbehaving. Sometimes it is easy to misinterpret comments and friendly attempts at humor as heckling. 1 recommend you read the thoughts of Eugene Burger on hecklers in his book Secrets and Mysteriesfor the Close-up Entertainer (p. 39).

These arc the three things I have learned about the use of eye contact. There is certainly much more to it than the simple notion that "Eye contact makes people like you more," don t vou think?

IRICKS with card cases hccamc particularly popular with magicians in the 1970s MwMxA 01311 mac^c important contributions to this tiny group of fc'OT effects was the very clever Peter Kane, and one of those contributions was the first shrinking card-case (see his Another Card Session with Peter Kane, 1971, p. 1). Since its appearance, other magicians have published plans or marketed mechanical card-cases that shrink, with a trend manifesting toward increasingly simple designs. In the late 1970s I came up with several myself, following this progression toward simplicity. Of these, I will describe two that were the most successful. I created the first to take advantage specifically of the pattern found on Aviator-brand card-cases. The second is suitable for a number of other patterns.

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