How To Use Eye Contact – Reader Question
Christopher Philip

Reader Question: Lately I’ve been researching on how to be more open to people, how to be more socialize, etc. I still have quite a lot of things to work on but this one thing is what bothering me the most: eye contact.

I’ve read so many posts, forum about this and seems like everybody have their own opinion. A lot of them only said about maintain eye contact but don’t actually tell you how, some said only maintain eye contact 6-7 seconds and don’t look away when you are the one who is talking. Some said maintain eye contact but when they look away you look away to build rapport. So I want to hear your opinion on this one. I’m actually trying my best to talk to strangers so I think proper body language is a must. I don’t want people to think that I’m about to murder them with my staring :-D.

I usually thought that I’m fine with the friends I have, which is great but it’s about time that I have to be the one who take a step forward. Do you have any trouble with talking to strangers at first? I would be happy if you could share your story with me :-D.

Answer: You might find some of the information you’re looking for in this chapter: (http://bodylanguageproject.com/the-only-book-on-body-language-that-everybody-needs-to-read/introduction-chapter-5/).

Eye contact is a tricking thing to master consciously.

Eyes move quickly and when you focus on your eye movements their patterns tend to FEEL more awkward (than they really are) – usually. As I am a fairly conscious introvert myself, I tend to try to maintain eye contact in a more specific way.

When I listen to people I spend some of the time maintaining eye contact (a few seconds), right up until they tell me something interesting. I take that time to look away as if contemplating what they are saying. When someone actually tells me something interesting, this is a cue I use to break eye contact so it doesn’t look like I’m counting to 6 or 7 or whatever it is that is the average looking time. I’m conscious not to appear distracted by looking at other things in the background or to their side. I focus on them.

I have found that in a large group, simply holding eye contact, smiling a bit (if they are saying something worthwhile or you legitimately find interesting) and nodding my head in agreement or to encourage them is enough to basically by THE person that the speaker directs their dialogue toward.

When I’ve done it properly, by engaging them, I feel like I’ve succeeded in eliciting a leadership (but passive) listening role. They are speaking to me – even though there are others in the group.

I don’t always try to be the center of attention though, as that requires a multitude of interests. Sometimes, I’m totally happy to focus on other things and zone out especially when the conversation isn’t interesting to me. I then let someone else use their eye contact and agreement indicators to take control of the listening role. This gives me my much needed introverted break and helps me to be able to focus on the next round of conversation – which as we know is particularly draining for introverts who unlike extroverts, are not charged up by social interactions.

What’s important is not to seem like you are staring. So maintain eye contact for a few seconds, then shift your eyes down or away when you are processing information. Since we are introverts, shift your focus to what the person is saying inside your head, rather than focus on reading them, or watching their face. This will help you maintain less piercing eye contact. Reading people is a skill, but if you’re doing it all the time, then you’re not able to connect with a person, you’re stuck in assessing them and their motives. This WILL appear creepy!

Looking away is fine while speaking, but try to do it when you’re thinking about what to say next. Yes, use eye contact more when speaking and a little less while listening, but the exact amount is not important. With eye contact, you just don’t want to “overstay your welcome” or seem distracted or uninterested. This will always be a difficult balance for the introvert. When people want to talk to you, you know you’re doing it right and you don’t need to over-think this. I little trial and error will help you balance things out.

With regards to talking with strangers…think of it as not much different than talking to a friend. Most people are much like the others, so if you can get along with friends simply use the same formula with strangers.

Pretending they are friends helps build rapport even faster. Always remember as an introvert that it’s likely that you KNOW more than they do, and because of this, you have the power.

I’ve once heard that you should imagine other people naked because it takes their power away. When making a difficult phone call or negotiation, I’ve been known to actually do the reverse, that is I make the call while nude (or in my undies)…why??…because by doing it like this, I have something that’s hidden which they will never know, and that unknown bit of information says that I, with certainty, have a secrete.

That, to me, is having the upper hand in the negotiation. Having hidden information is having power. So introverts have extra knowledge (because we are always thinking) and this is a source of power over the extrovert. Recall that extroverts are quicker to process information and therefore seem to know more, however, they usually don’t – they simply tend to present themselves more favourably in quickly evolving social encounters.

That’s their skill and they use it – your knowledge and understanding is yours – use it to your advantage.