If I’m wearing contact lenses, I’ll engage the barber in general chit-chat; my work, their work, this week, last week. You know, nothing too generic-slash-boring and nothing too controversial. But if I’m wearing glasses, that means I have to take them off for the duration of the cut. If you don’t already know, I have quite bad eyesight, and without glasses or lenses the world is a blur. And when I’m sat in the barber’s chair, unable to actually see much of what’s going on around me, it’s way easier to not talk. When I can’t see the other person’s facial features and expressions, awkward silences aren’t so awkward.
I don’t know why this is. The objective reality of the two situations—being able to see and not being able to see—is the same; I’m sat in the chair and the barber is flitting around me, helping me look less trampy. But not being able to see means I can endure twenty minutes of complete silence if necessary—I know this because I tried it the last time I went. No glasses, no conversation; it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
This information has little practical utility for you, and it’s of minor import to me. But it does hint at a relationship between visual stimuli and our ability to engage and build rapport with another human being. Maybe this is why connecting over the phone or holding a conversation on a choppy Skype call is so difficult?