There are few communication skills that are as easy to learn but have such a large impact as the power of making eye contact when talking with someone. If you are looking to demonstrate confidence or just to develop stronger engagement, looking your audience in the eyes will work wonders.
When engaging in any level of conversation, it is critical that both parties are on-board. Looking someone in the eyes makes them aware that you are really engaged in the conversation. It also shows that you are committed to your point of view and seeking to draw them in.
For communication to be effective, all participants need to transfer and understand information as clearly as possible.
If your eyes wander around the room while talking, your partner may instinctively feel that you are not committed to the conversation. This is because our unconscious minds are wired to understand that eye contact is a critical piece of non-verbal communication. If you are not making an appropriate amount of eye contact, they may feel that you are not serious or not being completely honest.
This leads us to an important question though…
How much eye contact is enough?
There are various theories about the most appropriate amount of eye contact in a conversation.
I wish I could remember where I picked it up these tips, if only so that I could give them credit. Here are a few easy things that work for me though:
One on one:
For a brief conversation – Look into their eyes at least long enough to see what color their eyes are.
For an extended conversation – Go for a similar amount of time but alternate around their face in a triangle between each eye and their mouth. There are scientific reasons why the mouth is also an appropriate place to look but just know that it is a familiarity/comfort thing.
In a group:
Move through each person in the group and change the focus of our attention around the start of each new sentence. Obviously this could look a little creepy or robotic if it seems forced. Chances are though, that you will find it stranger than your audience. Once you settle into a rhythm this will become second nature.
Communicating with honesty and truth
At some point we have all been in a conversation with someone that seems a little shady. These are often people that can’t seem to maintain eye contact when they are speaking. They might be looking down at the ground or searching for something more interesting. Either way, if both parties are not maintaining eye contact, it is an indication that that they are not truly engaged.
Regardless of your message, it will be received better if you appear comfortable and believe in it. The best public speakers all make a great impression because they come across as truly believing what they are saying. An important part of this is getting message across in a sincere way.
When you can believe in yourself your body language mirrors that. One part of demonstrating this self-belief is being confident enough to deliver your message with appropriate eye contact.
Speaking with clarity
In a group, keeping adequate eye contact helps to show who you are speaking to. It helps to draws your subject’s attention. When you look into someone’s eyes, it will help to engage them in the things that you say.
The power of making eye contact is well known and with only a small amount of practice, it is something that will greatly improve the way you communicate with others.
Try to use the simple guidelines above in all conversations for the next couple of days and I promise that you will see an improvement in your level of engagement with others and also in your own confidence.