The Eyes Have It!

Improving your use of eye contact can make you a more powerful communicator.
by Edith Barnard, Barnard Communications

No matter the size of your audience, making eye contact is a critical step in connecting emotionally with your listeners.

Eye contact is a language all its own. We read this language without being aware of it. Even though it’s not a conscious process, it is a powerful process. Improving your use of eye contact can make you a more powerful communicator. People who make regular and sustained eye contact are often perceived as more likeable, confident and persuasive.

For example, the longer the eye contact between two people, the more intimacy develops. In business situations, this translates to trust—and skillful salespeople know this. Maintaining eye contact shows your client that you’re focused on their situation and needs. Sharing eye contact is a natural human tool that we use to show we’re on the same page.

In fact, you’ve probably used this tool without even knowing it. When you approach two people in conversation, the first thing you do is follow their gaze. If they make purposeful eye contact with you, you’re instantly a member of the conversation. Likewise, if they ignore your gaze, they indicate that the conversation is private.

Harness this communication tool in professional situations. Whether you’re delivering a speech, sales pitch or report, engage your audience nonverbally. Look to them when you emphasize a key idea or new point. If you are sitting at a boardroom table, meet the gaze of everyone at the table throughout your delivery.

You can practice purposeful eye contact with family and friends across the dinner table. A little bit of casual practice will help you hone in on exactly how much eye contact is optimal.

Sharing eye contact communicates that you are engaged in a two-way conversation—even if you’re the only one talking at the moment. Indeed, the eyes have it! PM

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