The Importance of Using Eye Contact in Communication

eye contact at work

“The eyes are the windows to your soul.”William Shakespeare

The eyes have long been known to divulge our deepest and darkest secrets. To look into someone’s eyes is to look into their very soul. They communicate on a deeper level than verbal speech and rely more on feeling and intuition than reason. That’s why you can feel a genuine connection with someone before either of you even speak, just by meeting their gaze. It’s why staring into someone’s eyes can increase your attraction to them and vice versa. It’s probably why we don’t do it enough in the workplace. It may feel awkward to gaze into your co-worker’s soul, but eye contact can help you build business relationships.

Key Takeaways

  • Looking someone in the eyes helps to convey feelings and emotions better
  • Eye contact is an important form of non-verbal communication
  • Looking your boss in the eyes can help build trust and garner respect
  • Individuals that make eye contact are generally seen as confident, honest, genuine, and empathetic

What is eye contact in the workplace?

Eye contact is a valuable form of non-verbal communication in the workplace. This is even more true today, with many employees and customers wearing masks covering much of the face, including the mouth. When you’re having trouble understanding someone, your instinct may be to watch their mouth while they talk. With the limited ability to view and use facial expressions, we are left with the eyes to deliver our message. When you meet someone’s gaze, you often convey and perceive feelings and emotions. During a conversation, these feelings and emotions add context and meaning to the spoken words.

Why is eye contact important in the workplace?

When someone isn’t telling the truth, they often avoid looking you in the eyes during a conversation. Being comfortable meeting the eye of the person you are speaking with can help build trust. It can show that you are confident in what you’re saying which may gain you respect. Eye contact is also a way to confirm that your audience is receiving and understanding your message. If you notice that your audience seems disinterested or confused, then you can change your approach accordingly. Clear communication at the workplace can help to decrease conflict and increase efficiency.

When does eye contact not work?

When it comes to people skills, it’s always best to know your audience. Some people are not comfortable making eye contact with others, and it has nothing to do with them being untrustworthy. They may experience anxiety meeting anyone’s gaze, and others may just experience anxiety when it’s an individual in power. Others may perceive eye contact as being rude. Whatever the reason, I’m sure we have all felt uncomfortable at some point in our life while staring into someone’s eyes. Above all, trust your gut. If eye contact feels uncomfortable, it probably is. Don’t force it. No one wants to be playing an awkward staring contest.

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How to maintain eye contact during a conversation:

Look into your audience’s eyes at the beginning of your conversation to confirm they are listening and at the end to reaffirm understanding. Be sure to stare straight into their eyes while making eye contact and not at another fixed point. Avoiding eye contact can make you seem untrustworthy or nervous. Every 5-10 seconds, or as feels comfortable for that conversation, look at another individual or look away for a moment before looking back. Staring into someone’s eyes for too long at a time can be intimidating.

What does eye contact say about a person?

Individuals that are comfortable with eye contact are generally seen as honest, genuine, and empathetic. It’s hard to be fake when you’re looking into someone’s eyes, and if you are, they can usually tell. Connecting with others is a crucial part of life and success in the workplace. When you look into someone’s eyes, you are opening up. Making eye contact conveys your emotions to your audience, and makes you more genuine. People are more likely to want to work with individuals that they think are trustworthy and caring. Taking the extra time to connect with others helps build and maintain meaningful relationships.

Should you make eye contact with your boss

Making eye contact reaffirms to the speaker that you are listening and engaged. If you are looking for a promotion, or want to maintain good standing, demonstrating a genuine interest in the company is a critical first step. It also shows that you are confident in your role. Looking up, down, or away during a conversation can be seen as a sign of disinterest or subordinate behaviour. Even though it may feel awkward to meet a superior’s gaze while they’re talking, this action can earn you respect in the workplace. Above all, it helps build relationships. Having a strong, professional relationship with your boss can go a long way to help you get that raise or promotion.

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Tips for improving eye contact

1. Make eye contact at the beginning and end of a conversation

This helps to confirm that the audience is listening and reaffirms understanding.

2. Break eye contact every few seconds

If you are talking to more than one person, you can do this by looking between the audience members.

3. Look straight into the eyes

Looking down or off to the side, even slightly, can make you seem untrustworthy or nervous.

4. Use Body language

Use your hands, or nod your head as appropriate during the conversation to break up the eye contact.

5. PRACTICE!

If eye contact makes you nervous, take a deep breath and practice in a mirror, or with someone you are more comfortable with.

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