Master Eye Contact Using These 4 Tips
Eye contact, as the term itself implies, means looking someone in the eyes, and it is an extremely important aspect of non-verbal communications.
As already outlined in a previous article, non-verbal communication amounts to about two-thirds of all communications.
For that reason, improving every single aspect of it should be the main focus for all of those who want to be (and be perceived as) more assertive, influential and socially adept.
The way you look others in the eyes (or in the eye, as we’ll see later) can tell a lot of different things to them, such as your level of attention, confidence and agreeability, just to name a few.
In some contexts, excessive eye contact is considered rude and hostile, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s just creepy.
If done properly, though, eye contact allows a deep and powerful connection between people by shaping a calm and constructive environment, an environment where confrontation and divergent thinking are more than welcomed.
Hence, in this article, we’re going to focus on the main features that can dramatically improve your eye contact game:
- Maintain eye contact, but not too much.
“How long should I keep the eye contact with someone?” is one of the most frequently asked questions on the subject.
As a rule of thumb, once you establish eye contact with another person, you should maintain it for at least 4–5 seconds, which is most likely the time needed to utter a complete sentence.
If you’re in a group setting, make sure you look everyone’s eyes for 2–3 seconds before taking a break by glancing to the side.
More than that and you might feel uncomfortable;
less than that and others might perceive you as not trustworthy.
For western cultures, these measures should be appropriate enough. As we’ve hinted before, it all heavily depends on the cultural settings in which the eye contact takes place. Thus, the standards we’ve outlined might slightly differ.
- Establish it right away.
There’s no better way than looking someone in the eyes than right at the start of a conversation. Yes, even before saying anything.
Don’t look anywhere else except your counterpart’s eyes. Seems obvious but it is not.
It shows the interlocutor that you value not only what he has to say, but you value him as a person.
This sense of respectfulness is what gives him the freedom to express himself without fearing not being listened to, enhancing his self-esteem in the process.
Often times, it is just that lackluster presence and awareness of the other person that stops us from giving our honest and authentic take on something. But on the other hand, when someone looks us attentively and genuinely (not in an intimidating way, let’s be clear), we feel more secure and therefore more prone to share our life experiences.
Just from this simple tweak, you can make room for deeper connections and conversations that go well beyond the infamous “small talk”.
- Make eye contact, not eyes contact.
Your goal when looking at someone should be that of looking specifically in one pupil, rather than continuously shifting between the two.
Based on scientific research, some experts advocate looking at the left pupil when making an emotional plea, while looking at the right one when making a logical argument.
That’s because of our brain structure: as a matter of fact, our brain’s right side is responsible for synthesizing emotions, while it processes images from the left side.
Another way (just as efficient, in my opinion) of assuming a more stable eye contact is that of looking right in the middle of your interlocutor’s eyes, which is the superior part of the nose, called Glabella.
Whatever method you choose, make sure you assume a firm and assertive gaze.
- Turn your body towards the audience you’re talking to.
This is important. You can’t hope to have a connection if your body posture conveys a totally different message.
Hence, make sure your body language is on point the whole time.
Turn your body to the person you’re talking (or listening) to.
If in a group setting, use your posture to include everyone in the conversation, even those who seem to be slightly distant.
Align your chest, shoulders, and feet with your audience.
If any of these parts is not properly tuned out, your message and your presence will both come across as unconvincing and therefore, as pointed out earlier, not deserving of trust.
I mean, wouldn’t it be weird and uncomfortable to talk to someone while they’re positioned sideways, ready to walk away?
You’d probably think they’re either not enjoying the conversation or are too busy thinking and mentally planning about something else (like getting out of the conversation, for example).
Verbal communication, nowadays, is unnecessarily hyped up.
Not that it is not important, mind you.
But the way you say things is by default more important than what you say, just like actions speak louder than words.
Whether you’re in a business meeting, in a more intimate setting or even during an hypothetical altercation, a solid non verbal foundation can go a long way.
Mastering the use, not necessarily of all non-verbal tools, but at least of some of them, makes all the difference in the world, especially when confronted with any of the situations above mentioned.
For that reason, working on their improvement is not, and will never be, time wasted.
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