How To Improve Your Eye Contact
Eye contact is a nonverbal cue humans often use to communicate how we feel and think about a situation. At the very beginning of any social interaction, direct eye contact can help improve connections and display active listening. Other active listening cues include nodding, leaning toward your conversation partner, and offering verbal affirmation.
It may be possible to improve eye contact through practice and feedback from other people. Being fully present in the room and aware of your conversation partner's feelings can be achieved through eye contact therapy and other practices. Online therapy can be an option if you’re interested in working on your eye contact skills.
Why Is Eye Contact Important?
Research shows that eye contact is an important visual cue for building social connections. By maintaining eye contact, you may show your conversation partner that you’re fully present and engaged in the conversation. Avoiding eye contact might give the sense that you’re disinterested in what they’re saying, even if this isn’t the case.
Making a connection with another's eyes can feel as if you're glimpsing into their soul, creating a powerful and intimate moment. Eye contact may happen naturally, but sometimes it can go wrong, leaving you to wonder how to improve this essential skill.
When Eye Contact Is Difficult
You're not alone if you feel like eye contact is difficult or awkward. Many people find it challenging to make eye contact with their conversation partners.
There are several reasons why you may find it challenging to make eye contact. Once you identify them, it may become easier to seek assistance in improving. Here are some of the many reasons why eye contact may be difficult:
- You’re Nervous: If you’re nervous or feeling anxious about how others view you, you may avoid eye contact and try to end the conversation quickly.
- You’re Distracted: It can be tough to focus on your conversation partner if there’s a distraction that’s grabbing your attention. In this case, it could help to mention the distraction and use it as a talking point.
- You’re Disinterested: It can be natural to lose focus when you’re not thrilled about the topic of conversation or the person you’re talking to.
- You Have Other Factors At Play: If you’re a person who is neurodivergent or has an anxiety disorder, eye contact and communication might be difficult or uncomfortable.
How To Improve Eye Contact
Please note that people who are neurodivergent may find this skill difficult, and it can be possible to be socially successful even without making eye contact.
You can work on improving your eye contact through practice. For example, you might strike up a conversation with a barista at a coffee shop and focus on holding eye contact while placing your order. When engaging with clients or acquaintances, you might choose to sit down for a conversation and focus on maintaining eye contact. In the beginning, it may feel a bit intense, but with practice, you'll develop a more comfortable balance.
Alternatively, you could ask loved ones to help you practice making eye contact while speaking. Trusted friends, parents, and family members might be willing to offer feedback if you ask. They might have been observing your eye contact for several years and can provide insights and suggestions to help you improve.
Receiving feedback or suggestions from loved ones can be an effective tool for some, while others might find it frustrating or isolating. Both experiences are valid, and a licensed professional can often help you talk through them.
Another way to practice eye contact could be to discuss things you're passionate about in daily life. Since you feel strongly about the topic, you may find it easier to express yourself and hold someone’s gaze.
Active Listening Cues
- Make direct eye contact without staring intensely
- Nod your head when appropriate
- Give occasional verbal cues like "uh-huh,” “yes,” and “hmm”
- Lean toward your conversation partner slightly
- Ask for clarification when you don’t understand
- Summarize what your conversation partner said to show that you’re listening
Remember that too much intensity in eye contact can be overwhelming, so it's essential to find the right balance. Mixing active listening skills with eye contact can make it feel less intense, as you may be able to focus on other aspects of connection and communicate through them.
Therapy May Help With Eye Contact Difficulties
For some, improving eye contact skills on their own can feel challenging or even impossible. In addition, it may feel exhausting on a mental and physical level. If you find yourself experiencing moments of frustration, working with a licensed therapist may help you identify why eye contact is challenging and how you can improve this skill. For example, online therapy is a proven method for improving social skills using techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
When you choose to try online therapy rather than traditional face-to-face therapy, you may find that thousands of licensed therapists are available to assist you. They can help you learn techniques and strategies to improve your ability to make eye contact and practice them with you. In addition, it may be easier to hear constructive feedback from a neutral party, especially when they can help you process emotions and other issues.
Through the BetterHelp platform, you can expect to reach thousands of licensed therapists who are available to help you work through your difficulties. They can assist you in understanding what happened to make eye contact a challenge and teach you techniques and strategies to improve this skill. During your therapy sessions, you'll have the opportunity to practice making eye contact with varying levels of intensity, which can help you find the right balance for different situations.
What are examples of eye contact?
You can use eye contact in different ways. You might maintain eye contact during a conversation, which shows attentiveness, or break eye contact, which might show discomfort or distraction. Prolonged eye contact may create a sense of intimacy, while normal eye contact involves looking into a person's eyes during interactions without staring. In video calls, a direct gaze into the camera can simulate eye contact, which may create a sense of connection.
What is the importance of eye contact?
As a key part of social interactions, eye contact creates a connection and shows interest. It is directly involved in nonverbal communication and helps express emotions or reactions without words. Individuals who hold eye contact can often appear more trustworthy and confident.
How important is eye contact in communication?
Eye contact is often necessary for effectively communicating with others. For example, it helps reinforce verbal messages and complements facial expressions. Good eye contact also helps build rapport and trust during social interactions. In addition, developing good eye contact is part of learning to be self-aware.
How do you make good eye contact?
Good eye contact involves balancing between holding eye contact to show interest and breaking it occasionally to avoid making the other person feel uncomfortable. It's about self-awareness and reading the other person's facial expressions to sense their comfort level. In situations like a video call, you can try to look at the camera to simulate direct eye contact.
What is the other word for eye contact?
Another term for eye contact is "eye gaze," which refers to looking directly into another person's eyes. Eye gaze is a powerful aspect of nonverbal communication, often showing that you're interested and paying attention. Depending on the relationship between the individuals, it can vary from a fleeting glance to a prolonged gaze.
Why is eye contact important for language development?
Eye contact is important for language development, especially from an early age. Babies learn to communicate and recognize social cues by observing their mother's face and eyes. This early interaction helps people develop cognitive and social skills necessary for mastering overall language. Infants tend to learn to associate words with expressions and emotions conveyed through eye contact.
What is the power of the eye?
The power of the eye lies in its ability to convey a wide range of emotions and intentions without words. Eye contact can often create attraction or show empathy. It is a powerful tool in communication that can express what words sometimes cannot.
How to impress someone by eye contact?
Using a confident and direct gaze may impress some people who recognize the importance of eye contact. In any case, you may want to maintain a balance without overly prolonged eye contact, as some people may be uncomfortable with eye contact due to social anxiety or other problems. Using eye contact along with a genuine smile and appropriate body language may help you leave a positive and memorable impression.
Is eye contact a form of attention?
Yes, eye contact is a key form of attention. It shows that you're fully present in the moment and actively interested in the conversation. Eye contact and other attentive behaviors like nodding and leaning in can show you're actively listening.
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