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Eye Contact

"The meeting of eyes between two individuals"

Introduction to Eye Contact. 1 min.41 sec.

The study of eye contact is sometimes known as oculesics.

Although eye contact and facial expressions are often linked together, the eyes could transmit a message of their own.

Eye contact is a type of nonverbal communication that is strongly influenced by social behaviour. In the western civilizations, eye contact is most often defined as a sign of confidence. Eye contact is not consistent amongst different religions, cultures and social backgrounds.   

  • Cultural Differences:
    • In Asia (including Middle East), keeping eye contact with someone of authority implies rudeness and can be mistaken as a provoking mean of communication.
    • In Western societies, eye contact can imply empathy and comes across as a type of emotional connection.
    • In the 19th century, the Spanish women used eye contact to say what they couldn't express explicitly. 
    • In some Asian countries, avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect. 
  • Religious Differences:
    • In extremist religions, eye contact is sometimes frowned upon amongst people of the opposite sex. 
    • Muslim women lower their gaze when in the presence of men.  
Eye contact can indicate how interested a person is in the communication taking place. It could also suggest trust and truthfulness. Often, then people are being untruthful, they tend to look away and resist eye contact (Eye Aversion [blog]). 

Furthermore, eye contact portrays someone's involvement and attention. Attention is a function of eye contact that can be both negatively and positively affect by a person's gaze. The latter can show confidence, anger, fear,... 

A person's direction of gaze is important. To engage in a productive communicative session, attention must given. Looking away often demonstrate a lack of involvement in the conversation. Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. A lack of eye contact is not a cause of this disease, but can often be a sign of its presence. This lack of eye contact provides information on how the individual's lack of attention can lead to a lack of communication skills. People suffering from social anxiety (or social phobia) also resist eye contact, although this does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of attention. 
Important aspects of gaze:
  • Looking while talking: This establishes a rapport with the person listening.
  • Looking while listening: This reciprocates the rapport established. This aspect is often used during emotional connections such as flirting.
  • Frequency of glance: This indicated involvement and how invested one is to the conversation.
  • Patterns of fixation: This provides evidence as to where the attention lies.
  • Pupil Dilation: This could often provide proof of interest and boredom.
Cited from Let's Focus on Eye Contact: (link bellow)

How Maintaining Eye Contact Can and Will Benefit You:

In a sales position it is imperative that the sales agent maintain the dominant role. The most effective method of doing so is by portraying confidense. And, as you’re probably thinking, eye contact is one of the most effective ways to do that.

In a sales position whoever is in control of the sale will usually establish eye contact while the more submissive party will avoid it. The same can be said of every argument and confrontation you’ve ever been in. Eye contact is empowering, and because of the natural communicative signals that it sends to the other parties, maintaining it facilitates effective communicaiton.
Studies have shown that maintaining eye contact can effectively reduce tension in a conversation, show an image of assertion, and conveys respect. Though, by the same means, too much eye contact can portray aggression, hostility, and even anger. The “death stare” can infuriate someone without you having to mutter a single word.

Take some time to commit to teaching yourself to use eye contact naturally. When you’re talking to someone quickly glance at their eyes and notice their level of committment to the conversation.

Over time maintaining eye contact will become natural and you will notice a difference in your conversations.