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Look 'Em in the Eye: Part I -The Importance of Eye Contact

February 10, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
eyecontact_1.jpgFebruary 5, 2012 by Brett & Kate McKay via TheArtofManliness.com -- How often have you talked with another guy who never looked you in the eye during the entire length of the conversation? Or perhaps he did meet your gaze a few times, but then his eyes shifted back to his shoes or to some point off in the distance.

I'd like to say that the ability to make good eye contact is one of the social skills a lot of young men seem to be struggling with these days, which would be true, but I've encountered enough gaze-averting middle-aged men to know that it's a multi-generational problem. And actually, it's probably something men have always struggled with--females are on average better at making and holding eye contact than males, and in fact, it's been found that the higher the levels of testosterone a fetus is exposed to in utero, the less eye contact they make as infants--across genders. Interestingly, the exception to this rule are male babies who have the very highest levels of T; they end up being as adept at eye contact as their female counterparts--alpha babies aren't afraid to look you in the eye!

But just because making eye contact doesn't come naturally to us men, doesn't mean you should just shrug your shoulders and accept this predisposition. The ability to make high-level eye contact is a skill every man should work on, as it has been shown to create some incredible benefits for the gazer. Numerous studies have shown that people who make higher-levels of eye contact with others are perceived as being:

  • More dominant and powerful
  • More warm and personable
  • More attractive and likeable
  • More qualified, skilled, competent, and valuable
  • More trustworthy, honest, and sincere
  • More confident and emotionally stable

And not only does increased eye contact make you seem more appealing in pretty much every way to those you interact with, it also improves the quality of that interaction. Eye contact imparts a sense of intimacy to your exchanges, and leaves the receiver of your gaze feeling more positive about your interaction and connected to you.

In short, making greater eye contact with others can increase the quality of all of your face-to-face interactions; there's no area of your life where being seen as more attractive, confident, and trustworthy wouldn't be a boon. Being able to look people in the eye and hold their gaze can help you better network with others, land a job, pitch an idea, make a moving speech, woo the ladies, and intimidate your enemies. It can help a lawyer win over a jury, a boxer psych out his opponent, and a minister connect with his congregants. It can even aid a musician in winning over new fans; studies have shown that the more eye contact a musician makes with his audience, the more they enjoy his music--take note ye members of struggling bands!

And the best part of all this is that improving your eye contact is something you can do relatively quickly and easily. Next week in the second article of this two-part series, we'll cover all the practical nuts and bolts on how to do that, and offer some really helpful eye contact tips for both general conversational situations as well as specific scenarios.

But today we'd like to begin with an exploration of why making eye contact is so important in forming relationships with other people, and why it can be so hard to do.

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