Eye contact is crucial for establishing your connection with someone who is speaking to you. It can also show your concern, respect, and attention. Eye contact, however, is something that not everybody has fully developed. For some people, looking others in the eye can be very awkward and difficult to maintain especially if you do not have a habit of establishing eye contact with other people. Here are some steps to make better eye contact.
- Practice. Practice is very important when it comes to improving your eye contact with other people. You can use the television as a way to practice – when watching TV, do not just follow the movements of the characters, but look them in the eye as well. The news reports are especially good for practicing since new reporters are required to look directly into the camera which creates the image of the news reporter looking right at you. Keep in mind, however, that you need to rest your eyes every few seconds when watching television for prolonged periods of time.
- Listen and focus on people. People who do not establish eye contact are usually those who are unable to focus on the people they are talking with. One great way to improve your eye contact, therefore, is by listening on the other person for you to be able to focus. Focusing also means that you need to draw your gaze into the eyes of the person. Plenty of people can focus while engaged in conversation. However, most do not focus on the eyes alone but on other body parts instead, such as the chest, the mouth, or the hair. If you tend to space out during long conversations, focusing on the eyes is also a great way to keep you hooked on whatever you and your partner are talking about.
- Don’t stare. Maintaining eye contact, however, is more than just staring at somebody. Staring can seem very rude and can make it harder for you to establish rapport. To avoid this, do not simply look at the person in the eye. Instead, focus on only one eye. This will reduce the appearance of staring. By focusing on only one eye, you can also rotate and shift between the left and right eye. This will give your eye contact more fluidity and motion which will seem much more normal and natural.
- Relax and take your time. Remember that improving your eye contact is a skill that will not necessarily be learned over night. It will take time for you to be able to master looking at others in the eye without seeming offensive or frightening. Try to relax as you work your way to better eye contact – too much self-consciousness will only make your attempts seem nervous and awkward. You should also try to focus on aspects of eye contact such as time, person, and the speaker. For instance, establishing eye contact for a short time can be easier than when establishing eye contact for a very long conversation. Or, it may be easier to establish eye contact with people you are comfortable with, than those that intimidate you. Or, it may be easier for you to establish eye contact when you are speaking, than when you are being spoken to.
Once you have these details worked out, improving your eye contact skills gradually can be done.