How to Maintain Eye Contact
Making eye contact is a lot trickier than it seems. There’s a certain Goldilocks quality to the process that can make eye contact challenging. Too much eye contact can come across as aggressive or creepy, whereas too little can come across as aloof or timid. Finding the perfect balance is a product of practice, techniques, and self-confidence.
Maintaining Eye Contact with an Individual
Relax and talk about your topic.Eye contact will come a lot more easily if you feel at ease. Try not to get yourself too stressed out. Stay focused on what you are trying to convey in words. As you get into a conversational rhythm with the person you are talking to you will become more comfortable and more able to make eye contact.
Look between their eyes to start.If you are too uncomfortable to look someone directly in the eye you can try looking at the person in between his or her eyes to get started. They won’t know you aren’t looking them in the eye and once you get more comfortable with this you can start actually making eye contact.
- It is also best to start with people who are not intimidating to you, such as friends or parents. If you’re talking to someone really attractive or powerful you’re less likely to feel comfortable looking them in the eye.
Draw an imaginary inverted triangle on their face.The base of the triangle should be between their two eyes and the point of the triangle should be at their mouth or just below it. As you talk to this person let your eyes wander between these three points. This will make you look engaged without staring at one spot the entire time.
- Rotate between the three points every five seconds or so.
Don’t look too much.Maintain a balance between looking at them at them and looking away. Try to look at them or look away at natural points in the conversation. For example, if they say something you agree with you could try looking away and nodding your head in agreement.
- Replacing eye contact with non-verbal cues is a great way to assure the other person you are paying attention.
Make an effort.Even if you feel uncomfortable and awkward looking people in the eyes, it is healthy to force yourself to do it. Science tells us that making eye contact with someone is not so dissimilar to the idea of ‘keeping your eye on the ball’. It is something that you choose to do voluntarily, and it gets easier with practice.
- When you are talking or listening to someone and you catch yourself looking over their head or off into the distance, force yourself to reinitiate eye contact.
Try feigning eye contact if you are disabled and find actual eye contact upsetting.While you certainly don't need to suffer through eye contact if it's jarring to you, it is helpful to accommodate non-disabled people by sending signals that tell them you're paying attention. Look at somewhere near their face, where you can be comfortable. You can also give other signals that you're listening, such as nodding and interjecting with questions or statements like "I see." Try looking at their...
- Neckline/shirt area, unless they are wearing a low-cut shirt
- General direction
Understand that eye contact varies depending on culture.Studies show that East Asians desire less eye contact than other cultures. Eye contact can even come off as angry or unapproachable.On the other hand, Westerners tend to think of eye contact as being assertive and confident.
- Recognize that eye contact is rude in some disability subcultures. Autistic people and some others find eye contact alarming and upsetting,which means it hinders a conversation instead of helping. If you're talking to someone who avoids eye contact, it's polite to look elsewhere, such as at their hands or their shirt, so they can be comfortable.
Maintaining Eye Contact in a Group
Practice using the television.Find a talk show that features multiple people in a still frame. As each person talks, focus your eyes on their eyes. This is a great way to practice maintaining eye contact in a group.
Give each person attention.If you are speaking you have to make sure that you switch your eye contact between all the people you are talking to. If you only maintain eye contact with one person then the others will feel like they are not a part of the conversation.
- Try looking at one person per sentence and then switching when you start your next sentence.
Don’t let people's expressions faze you.If you are talking to an audience and you make eye contact with someone who is frowning or shaking their head at what you are saying, don’t be thrown. Maintain eye contact with this person for three or four seconds just like you would with everyone else. Maybe even throw in a smile just so they know you are taking their nonverbal criticism good-naturedly. Then move onto the next person unflustered.
- If making eye contact with so many people makes you nervous, try looking at the tops of their heads. From a short distance, they can't tell the difference.
- People will naturally have different opinions on what you are saying but maintaining eye contact is important regardless of what they think. This establishes a subconscious connectionthat is vital in social situations.
Keep your eye contact head on.Don’t look at people out of the corner of your eye as you talk to the group. Move your whole head to face theirs when you make eye contact.Making eye contact out of the corner of your eye is not much better than making no eye contact at all.
Mastering Other Social Skills
Maintain a balance in the conversation.You shouldn't be speaking too much and you shouldn't be forcing the other person to hold the entire conversation either. Try to maintain a balance by responding to what the other person is saying rather than waiting for your turn to speak.
- Giving positive feedback during the conversation is very helpful. For example, if the person tells you something say "oh, interesting. Can you tell me more?"
Be self-aware.Self-awareness is key to effective communication. You have to understand that while your ten year old cat may be a very important part of your life, other people don't necessarily want to hear about it constantly. Understand what is of interest to others and react according to the way that they respond.
- You don't only have to use stories from your own life as you make conversation. Don't be afraid to talk about anecdotes that you read or heard from someone else. This will show that you are willing to pay attention to and talk about topics other than yourself.
Don't feel put off by the end of the conversation.All conversations end at some point, so don't feel discouraged if you stop talking with someone. If you have had a good conversation with someone you don't need to force it to continue along. Gracefully end the conversation.
- For example, say something like "it was good talking to you, we should hang out again sometime", or "hope to chat again soon".This will end the conversation on a positive and comfortable note.
Allow yourself to disagree.One myth about communication or good social skills is that you are not allowed to disagree with the person you're talking with. This is entirely untrue.. You shouldn't disagree in an impolite or aggressive way, but being willing to express your own opinion will make the conversation more interesting. It will also last longer.
- Talking about sports is a good example of polite disagreement. Someone might say, I think this player is the best player in the league right now. If you don't agree you can say something like, "I'm not so sure, have you seen this other player play? He is having a really good year this year. I think he may have passed your player by." This is a polite way of disagreeing that will spark debate without offending the person.
- Don't stare too long. If you look while they are talking, then you should be fine, look at them while you are talking to them, but try not to stare when you're both silent.
- If you think that you may be staring at them, look down or tilt your head a little bit. That way, they won't think that you're boring.
- Never stare too open eyed. It's creepy.
Video: Video For Practicing Eye Contact - FOUR Difficulty Levels
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