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How to Use Eye Contact

How to use eye contact

Why is eye contact important?

Eye contact is important because the primary sense for humans is sight. We take most information about other people's emotional states from what we see written on their faces. The most expressive parts of the face are the mouth and eyes - we tell how a person feels by looking at their mouth and eyes.

People are wearing face masks now more than ever...

Tips to using correct eye contact:

  1. Start the conversation by giving eye contact.
  2. Do that by looking directly into their right eye.
  3. Note their immediate response to your initial eye contact.
  4. Mirror the duration and frequency of their response to your initial eye contact.
  5. Use the other person's response, as a guide to your action, that way you will be perceived as giving the "right amount" of eye contact.
  6. Do this every time and notice the positive results this method creates.

How to improve your eye contact

People often say, "The eyes are the windows to the soul", which means you can tell a lot about the emotional state of a person simply by looking into their eyes.

If you look into their eyes you can tell if they are feeling:

  • Tired or excited.
  • Confident or timid.
  • Friendly or hostile.
  • Happy or sad.

This ability to read people's emotions is based upon millions of years of evolution. If you met a stranger in the woods, then being able to correctly interpret their emotional state, might make a major difference to your chances of survival.

Consequently, eye contact has become a major indicator of your relationship with others. Which is why eye contact is important to get right.

The three degrees of eye contact.

If you look directly into the eyes of another person, they will respond in one of three ways, either:

  1. They will hold your eye contact steadily and you will gaze into each other's eyes, or
  2. They will NOT hold your eye contact, they will break off eye contact with you, or
  3. They will switch ON and OFF. Giving eye contact, break off, then give more eye contact, break off, etc.

The correct way to use eye contact

To use eye contact correctly, take the following steps:

  1. Start by giving eye contact. Look directly into their right eye
  2. Note their response. It will be one of three responses, listed above. They will either, hold your eye contact, or they will break it, or they will flit ON/OFF.
  3. Mirror their response. If they hold your eye contact, keep yours going too. If they break off, then stop looking into their eyes. If they flit ON and OFF, then you do the same.

Match and mirror their eye contact in intensity, duration and frequency. That way, they will feel at ease with you.

Using your eye contact in this way is a terrific way to build rapport with other people.

Don't violate the code.

If you stare into the eyes of people who don't like eye contact, they will find you oppressive.

If you don't hold the eye of people who give you the eye, they will find you weak or evasive.

If you give either too much, or not enough eye contact, you will be marked down by the other person.

The "right amount" is to be measured by the standard of the other person's response to your initial eye contact.

If you use the other person's response, as a guide to your action, then you will always be perceived as giving the "right amount".

Try it and please let us know the results you get, by leaving a comment.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Nonverbal Communication

  • What is Passive Behaviour in the Workplace?
    Passive behaviour is a failure to communicate, either affirmatively or negatively, to conversations or events taking place. We examine why is it dangerous and why it should be discouraged in the workplace.
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  • How to use eye contact
    Eye contact is an important part of communication. Giving too much, or too little, eye contact can be seen as being rude in Western cultures. So what is the correct amount to give?
    Read Article >
  • Body language and nonverbal communication skills
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  • Ten Ways to Improve Your Body Language
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  • Are Hand Gestures Considered Aggressive?
    Hand gestures are a form of non-verbal communication. Some gestures are considered aggressive, others are ambiguous. What hand gestures should you avoid using?
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