We’ve all been in that dreaded situation with someone you hardly know. Whether it be meeting a friend-of-a-friend, a partner’s family, or a prospective employer, there is always the same question when it comes to eye contact…how much is too much?
Eye contact is such an important part of social interaction. It’s a huge indicator of social awareness, as too much can be seen as aggressive or invasive, and too little can be looked at as a lack of confidence or disinterest.
Different situations demand a different use of eye contact. And it’s something that’s worth mastering!
In a Group
When you’re with a group of people you should make eye contact with everybody there. If you are speaking to the group, telling them a story, then you should look around at everybody as you tell it.
To make your eye contact seem natural, you should look around the group in a random order, look at someone to your left and then someone to your right. And be sure to keep your glances to no longer than 4-5 seconds.
By looking at every person there, each and every one will feel included. They’ll feel that you are telling your story to them, rather than just sitting in one someone else’s conversation.
It works two ways, as if they’re looking at you too, you know that they are interested in what you’re saying.
When you’re talking with one other person eye contact can be a lot more intense.
Most people have experienced a situation where somebody is making strong, uncomfortable eye contact with you. While long, lingering looks with a loved one are great, too much eye contact with a stranger or acquaintance can make you feel vulnerable and exposed.
Most people have also experienced it when somebody doesn’t make enough eye contact with you, they seem distracted and disinterested.
These are two fatal flaws that you want to avoid doing when interacting with people one-on-one.
You want to appear confident and engaged, and you can. Lengthy periods of eye contact can be uncomfortable, so ensure to break contact every 4-5 seconds. This doesn’t have to be for a long time, and you don’t need to look far.
When meeting someone for the first time, you should hold their gaze long enough to work out what colour eyes they have. Focus on their face as a whole rather than just their eyes, this will prevent you from looking like you’re staring!
When listening to somebody speak, psychologists suggest to shift your gaze from their left eye, to their right eye, then to their mouth. This is called the triangle. This allows you to show your confidence through looking at their eyes, and interest by looking at their mouth (where they are speaking from).
There are also other things which you can do as an indication of your interest without overdoing the eye contact.
When you greet somebody you can slightly raise your eyebrows and smile, most people subconsciously do this when greeting a friend, and it will have a great impact when you meet someone for the first time. Nodding your head shows that you are engaging with that they are saying to you.
When it works well, eye contact is invisible. It is also one of the most easily transferrable skills – so practice it with everyone you meet and you will be prepared for your next interview. And don’t forget to figure out their eye colour!
- License: Creative Commons image source
Contributed by Steph who works for Lenstore, and online retailer that sells contact lenses in the UK.