How often do you look people in the eyes when they’re talking to you? Probably pretty often. It comes naturally to us- to look at someone and pay attention to what they have to say. One of the many facets of human nature.
But what happens when you’re doing the talking?
I’m going to guess that you look them in the eyes. Every once in a while. And that’s not good.
There’s something to be said about someone who can’t look people in the eyes. Actually, a lot of things. Speaking strictly about Western culture, a lack of eye contact during conversation can lead to bad judgement by others. No matter how great and trustworthy of a person you might be, an inherent distrust can come from those who talk to people lacking strong eye contact. And it’s simply instinctual. You can be viewed as “shifty-eyed” and raise suspicions of unrevealed thoughts or intentions, even if that’s not your intention at all. Not to mention the display of confidence that you’re not giving by always avoiding others’ stares. Ask yourself this: would you really want to trust someone who can’t even look you in the eye?
So we want to change that. We want to show others that we’re confident, that we can be trusted. Because that’s what strong eye contact can do for you. It’s a sign of both confidence and respect, respect for both yourself and the person (or people) you’re talking to. It’s also believed that maintaining strong eye contact can increase one’s likelihood of convincing and persuading others. So if you want to appear more confident, show a level of respect for yourself and those around you, and enhance your ability of persuading others and getting what you want from people, then you need to start practicing.
So the next time, no matter where you are or who you’re with, simply try this: when a conversation is initiated and it’s your turn to speak, meet the person’s gaze, then hold it for a few seconds longer than you normally would.
It’s going to feel weird, trust me. As I’ve said before on the site, when it came to confidence, I never used to have much, if any at all. It was these simple yet admittedly challenging exercises that slowly expanded my social comfort zone, and it’s not like I’m this fearless, take-charge leader oozing with confidence today. But I’ve learned a thing or two.
Now here’s something you’ll begin to notice: as you gradually increase your periods of steady eye contact, you’ll start to feel more confident, more in control of the conversation. And that’s exactly what’s happening. By completely shifting your attention to whoever’s in front of you, you block out any distractions going on around you, anything happening in the room or the environment. Your focus, your world for the time being, is them, and that’s it.
It’s powerful in that this strong eye contact you’re giving shows a genuine interest in what the other person has to say, and people appreciate that. How often do people actually pay attention to and care about what we have to say these days? With everyone buried into their phones, it’s not often (but that’s for another discussion 😉).
What happens here is that people become captivated by what you say. They find themselves subconsciously hanging on to every word that comes out of your mouth, because they realize, “Oh, he/she actually cared about what I said; I’d better listen to their response.” This is where the persuasion can come in, if you’re so inclined. You’ve gained control of the conversation, and you’re thus able to take it in any direction you want.
Now, as with so many things in life, it’s a double-edged sword. Not enough eye contact is bad, but too much is just as bad, if not worse. Yeah, you want to look at people when you’re talking to them, but not the whole time. You don’t want to come off as a creep- that’s not going to help with first impressions. So take a break every few seconds- take a quick glance around you, look away when you laugh at a joke. We want to be confident, not creepy.
But really, what it comes down to is basic human decency. Actually caring about what others have to say is more important these days than ever, and strong eye contact will let people know you care. It’s simple, really it is. It’s not a complex formula with a strict set of rules. Give someone your undivided attention, and you’ll be amazed at what they’ll give you in return.
Got something you’d like to see discussed in a future post? Let me know in the comments!
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