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The Importance of Eye Contact (But Not Too Much!)

09/24/2012

Have you ever met that one guy who just wouldn’t look away when you were talking to him? He seems like a nice enough person, but you just get this awkward vibe off of him? Hey, you just met my boyfriend! Well, you met him as he was back when he was in high school before he learned a few social graces. He’s a nice guy, but he wasn’t able to communicate that because he didn’t know when not to look.

Eye contact is a very important thing. You look someone in the eye to prove that you are listening to them. It helps to make a good impression on potential employers, customers, friends, lovers, and friends of lovers. Eye contact along with a handshake can tell a person a lot about you, along with the way you say hello and how you dress.

However, if you maintain that eye contact for too long, especially if you forget to blink, you may not miss anything they say, but they start wondering why you aren’t blinking. People blink regularly. It allows the eyes to protect themslves from dryness and dust. There isn’t very much eye contact required. In fact, where you cast your eyes makes a lot of difference. Looking a person in the eye can be seen as a challenge to a superior. Or it can be a connection betwen equals. Looking down can be a sign of submission or acquiescence. It really is situational.

So how can you tell what is acceptable? Sorry… you need some experience. I can go into a whole bunch of different scenarios, but there is no way for me to cover them all. I will, however, talk you through the two most important ones – meeting a new person socially, and meeting a potential new boss at an interview. Just remember: these scenarios take into account my personality and the kind of position I want to have. These may or may not pertain to you.

When meeting a potential employer for the first time, remember to give them a genuine smile. This means that your eyes need to crinkle as your mouth widens. Most people can tell a fake smile from a real one because the smile doesn’t reach the eyes. That eye crinkling is what they mean. With a real smile the eyes crinkle and they seem to sort of sparkle. Look the boss in the eye, then down at their hand as you grab it (you don’t want to miss their hand and accidentally grab their tie since they’ll probably take offence to that). Then you want to look back up at them and re-establish eye contact. Don’t let the handshake last too long.

When your hands break apart look away, but have a reason to look away! Looking down at your seat before you sit in it is a good excuse. It also helps you to not fall on the floor when you sit down. Then, during the interview, take notes. It’s a good reason to break eye contact and it shows that you are listening to what they say and find it worth remembering. But remember: whenever you look away you need to have a reason. Look at something for a reason.

Now, when you’re meeting a girl or a guy for the first time, eye contact can be a tricky thing. How much is too much? When are you simply avoiding eye contact? Unfortunately, this is different with everyone. I personally like having someone look me in the eye. It proves that you are listening to me and what I’m saying means something to you. I don’t see it as a challenge unless you have a challenging posture to go along with it. Of course, I’m pretty secure in myself and if you feel you need to challenge me I feel that I don’t need you in my life. I have a friend who, on the other hand, is very sensitive to confrontation and sees anything less that worship as a sign of disrespect. You don’t want to maintain eye contact with him for very long.

When I meet a person for the first time I smile (again, with the honest crinkley eyes) and I stand up. I don’t let my hands just dangle at my sides. Instead, I put the fingers – just the finger tips – of one hand in my pocket and I either wave or shake the other person’s hand. Again, I make eye contact, break it to aim the handshake, make eye contact again, and then break it for a reason. In a social situation especially be sure to spread your focus to anyone who is speaking, and don’t forget to blink!

An employer will be less likely to hire you if you’re awkward, but an amazing resume can save your hide. On the other hand, if a potential friend gets a funky vibe off you they may avoid you for the rest of the evening. It really sucks if they’re polite about it, too, because they won’t tell you why they’re avoiding you. It would be rude if they did (even though it’s also rude that they don’t).

First impressions help people to understand who they are dealing with, and unfortunately it takes a ridiculous amount of effort to reverse a wrong impression. Do your best, and practice on your friends – you know, those people who always have your back but won’t hesitate to answer your questions honestly and negatively. And remember: you are a wonderful person. There is nothing wrong with letting people see that!

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From → Romance, Serious, Social

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