Have you ever realized how much one moment of locking eyes can mean? Try looking a stranger in the eye or even someone you know pretty well. Eyes are one of the best attributes of human expression because they can be direct and elusive, as well as show a million different emotions in just one look. Even one glance can tell you a lot about a person’s character, especially if a smile or smirk is thrown in. One thing that shy people have as a disadvantage is that they have trouble holding eye contact. It’s well known that in Western countries like the United States, giving those in power eye contact is revered. However, in Eastern countries, eye contact to those in power is viewed as rude and a sign of disrespect. It’s important to recognize these differences, since eye contact can mean many different things depending on the setting and the people locking eyes. Why is it good to practice strong eye contact in your every day life?
1. Respect – As I said above, in Western countries like the United States, eye contact in order to show and earn respect. From talking to your boss at work to thanking your grandmother for a birthday gift, eye contact shows that you see the person as equal or someone you view as important. Of course there are other ways to show respect, such as staying eye-level with the person and positioning yourself as leaning into them when you’re talking, but eye contact shows that you’re on the same page in the most straight-forward way. As they say, “eyes are the window to the soul.” Sincerity can be felt through eye contact, therefore, genuine respect will be received if you pay strong attention through your eyes.
2. Interest – If you like someone in any way, shape, or form, why not look them in the eye when you’re talking to them? Looking down or away from them can come off as aloof, especially if the person is telling you about something important or trying to get your attention. In order to put the most effort into showing interest, look the person in the eye and smile. This can be taken different ways depending on what you and the other person are intending - interest could mean familial, friendship, a respectful authoritarian interest, love interest, or even just a strong bond that you and the other person have. Eye contact can say so much, yet leave so much to assumptions and analyzing body language.
For more on body language and the interplay of interest, check this other article I wrote: Is It Really In The Eyes? Body Language Decoded.
3. Appreciation - You can convey appreciation quite easily with the eyes - just give a meaningful look into their eyes while you’re thanking them and the other person is able to recognize how you feel. Showing emotions like appreciation is quite important in terms of friends and family members if they do something nice or helpful for you, so eye contact is vital in these situations. It’s a socially constructed way to keep up a positive image with people in your life, yet also an extremely good way to show your thanks with sincerity.
4. Understanding – A locking of eyes can be all you need to have some understand something you mean. If you’re trying to get a point across or just want some reassurance, eye contact can be an important asset in communicating your thoughts. Eye contact is one of the most intimate forms of communication because sight has the ability to pick up so much that people convey. It’s possible to guess what someone’s thinking based on their eyes and how they look at you. Eye contact, or lack thereof, is invaluable for learning to trust someone and having that same respect given in return.
5. Eye contact can be the difference between seeming aloof and a new friendship. If you’re giving someone eye contact, this could be the start of friendly, warm communication with a new person. By keeping yourself open to locking eyes with a stranger, you’re inviting them to look at you and perhaps start a conversation. You’re leaving yourself open to people if you’re willing to make eye contact and keep up a friendly face. While there’s a clear difference between good eye contact and glaring, it’s important that you know when it’s appropriate to use either. Warm, friendly eyes could be the deciding factor in whether you make a possible friend or scare someone away! While there are exceptions to leaving yourself open with your eyes (ie. when you’re somewhere new and you feel rather sketched out), it’s important to not let opportunities where eye contact could help you to pass you by. Surprising things could happen if you just open your eyes!
In general, eye contact is something people don’t think enough about. It’s important to teach children from a young age to look people in the eye when they’re talking to them or they could develop a habit of seeming aloof or disinterested in communicating with other people. Locking eyes and knowing when to look away is a good people skill to possess. Use your eyes to project a positive image and one look could be the catalyst for change in your life. Open your eyes, sister – you never know who might be watching!
For more insight on this topic, click here.