When I was young and had a paper route, my dad would help me on Sunday mornings when the papers were so large and heavy for a little girl to cart around by herself so early in the morning. Afterward, we would always stop at a donut shop. The person who owned it, a sweet old lady named Marge, was always there, and would always talk to us.
One morning, as I was speaking to her in my usual shy manner, looking at my feet, she told me to look at her. She then proceeded to tell me to always use eye contact, that it was respectful and polite, and that it would get me far in life.
I've never forgotten that, and now (almost) always use eye contact. With my friends, with adults, with waitresses and cashiers. Many a time people will look down, not quite sure how to react. It doesn't bother me, as I know how difficult it was for me to learn. But I've found that it does get me farther with people. They tend to listen to me more, and know that I'm intently listening to them. I've always gotten along well with adults, but I think actually using eye contact has increased my status in their eyes. I don't think they're accustomed to many eighteen-year-old punks actually looking them in the eye and listening to what they have to say.