Make eye contact. When having a conversation with someone or sitting in an audience facing a speaker, we expect the other person to make eye contact with us. Through eye contact we discover and learn about each other. Mutual eye contact signals our interest and our intention. Sometimes relationships develop; other times they don’t even get off the ground because of poor eye contact.
Eye contact is often talked about in conjunction with public speaking and presentations, but it is basic to everyday communication skills. Become more comfortable making eye contact, and you become more skilled in reading meaning in the other person’s eyes. To be effective as a speaker, recognized as an interesting conversationalist, and appreciated as a good listener, in western culture, eye contact is important.
Mutual conversation starts with eye contact. This means that you face the person, or people, you are speaking with and give them your undivided attention. You don’t let your eyes wander off into the distance. You don’t text. You don’t answer your mobile.
It’s the eye contact, and other facial expressions, not just words, that provide important emotional and social clues about the other person and your immediate environment. Lose the eye contact and you lose the connection. Lose the connection and you lose understanding. Lose understanding and you lose your power to influence.
Eye contact demonstrates consideration and respect. Of all the nonverbal communication signals, eye contact is the most reliable indicator. When you’re speaking, the more you look at the person or people you are speaking to, the more you will keep their interest.
Different looks, give different meanings. Avoiding eye contact can indicate embarrassment, shyness, or signal a lack of trust or tension. Looking long and hard at someone is often viewed as being aggressive. Narrowed eyes can illustrate suspicion while rolling eyes can be a sign of exasperation or boredom. Eyes let the other person see you as warm and compassionate or cold and uncaring or keen and curious.
If you feel uncomfortable making eye contact during conversation, look between the eyebrows of your conversation partner. Move your eyes ever so slightly from between the eyebrows over to the left and then back again. Then, repeat the process moving to the other side. Eventually you will become comfortable enough to make eye contact.
If you feel uncomfortable making eye contact speaking to a group, practice looking at their foreheads. Try not to look over their heads, and do not even think about them in their underwear. Neither will help you build credibility, or effective communication skills. People associate eye contact with honesty, integrity and confidence.
Eye contact makes a difference in your career and the money you earn. It makes a difference in how you communicate with others: your relationships with family, friends and co-workers. It’s for good reason the eyes have been called the window of the soul. Make eye contact.