Why Eye Contact is Important in Communication
By Stacy | Feb 27, 2019 (5 min read)
We’ve all heard the age-old saying the “eyes are the window to the soul” and in many ways it holds true.
Everybody knows looking others in the eyes is beneficial in communication, but exactly how important is eye contact and how is it defined?
Eye contact can be subtle or even obvious. It can be a glaring scowl when a person is upset or a long glance when we see something that’s off about someone else’s appearance. It can even be a direct look when we are trying to express a crucial idea.
Eye contact is a type of body language that is extremely important during communication and conversation. Sometimes, our eyes and body language speak even more than words. Keeping eye contact with the person you are talking to shows that you are actively listening and paying attention.
Whether we realize it or not, we use our eyes as a form of communication at all times. Even actions like avoiding eye contact show a person has something to hide. Police officers can even use them to tell if someone is lying or not.
People are often uncomfortable giving eye contact due to shyness or anxiety. These same people might show other signs of shyness like a slight stutter, sweating, and blushing.
It today’s article, we will look at five reasons why eye contact is imperative in conversation.
In Western countries like the United States, eye contact is critical as a way to show and earn respect. From talking to your boss on the job or thanking your mom for dinner, eye contact shows the other person that you feel equal in importance.
There are other ways to show respect, but our eyes reflect our sincerity, warmth, and honesty.
This is why giving and receiving eye contact while talking is a surefire sign of a good conversation. Nowadays, it’s common for people to glance at their phone no matter if they’re in the middle of a conversation or not. That’s why eye contact will set you apart and truly show that you are giving them your full and undivided attention.
Sometimes locking glances is the only sign you need to show someone that you understand what they are talking about. More specifically, if you need to get a vital point across, eye contact is the best way to communicate that importance. Eye contact is also a form of background acknowledgment like saying “yeah” and “mhhm.”
That means it shows the speaker that you are tuned in to and understand what they are saying.
When someone is feeling an emotion or just performing a task, the same neurons that shine in their brain light up in someone else’s brain who is watching them. This is because we have “mirror neurons” in our brains that are very sensitive to facial expressions and most importantly, eye contact.
Direct eye contact is so powerful that it increases empathy and links together emotional states. Never underestimate the power of eye contact in creating long-lasting bonds.
4) Reveal Thoughts and Feelings
We have countless ways of describing eyes including “shifty-eyed,” “kind-eyed,” “bright-eyed,” “glazed over,” and more. It’s no wonder just about every classic love story starts with “two pairs of eyes meeting across the room.” Eye contact is also a powerful form of simultaneous communication meaning you don’t have to take turns doing the communicating.
Ever wonder why poker players often wear sunglasses inside? It’s because “the eyes don’t lie.” From birth, we instinctually look into people’s eyes to try and understand what they are thinking and we continue to do it for life.
When you are feeling especially nervous or are lacking self-confidence, direct eye contact may be a scary proposition. The truth is, eye contact actually evokes presence and projects confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness while speaking. The more you look at the audience or whoever you are speaking to the more power and authority you will give off.
In her book “The Body Language Advantage,” body language expert Lillian Glass stresses the importance of eye contact for confidence. Glass claims that breaking eye contact not only implies submissiveness but that
“When eye contact is maintained, it signifies control or power over a situation and establishes dominance.”
Practicing good eye contact is an essential skill for effective communication, but most people underestimate its ability to make a difference in business and beyond. Maintaining eye contact with someone you are talking to displays interest and tells them “you are important and I am actively listening.”
The skill of eye contact is indispensable but goes mostly unnoticed, which makes it a perfect skill to hone. Practicing eye contact is one of the best investments you will ever make and the best thing of all, it’s free!