You know when you’re being watched. It’s like magnetism – once another person’s eyes are latched onto you, your eyes just drag themselves to latch back. Only it’s really awkward when you’re ‘eye latching’ with that weird guy from across the hall who you swear you see frikkin’ everywhere. And you’re a dude! Eye contact is hectic.
So hectic in fact, that you can probably see from a great distance when Mr Weirdo is looking at you. You don’t even need to see the exact position of his eyes to know; it’s just… a feeling. Even babies have evolved to make eye contact, with studies showing that infants who show more eye contact earlier on, get fed more and are shown more affection.
Degree of eye contact
Like with Weird Stalker Dude, eye contact shouldn’t linger for too long. Too much eye contact can be perceived as rude, condescending, or an invasion of personal space. But look away too much and you seem aloof, uninterested, arrogant, nervous or even disrespectful. So then how much eye contact is just right? Apparently 30% to 60%.
Speaking is an act that requires concentration. This is why, during conversation, you’ll probably look away periodically to think about what you’re saying. This is perfectly normal too – it’s just about finding the right degree of eye contact. A good balance is to offer a bit more eye contact when listening and a little less when speaking.
The truth of the matter
Your degree of eye contact can also demonstrate other things, like truth and honesty. For instance: a liar might avoid eye contact or over-compensate with more eye contact.
Looking left or right when talking to someone can also (but not always) be a tell-tale sign of when a person is telling the truth. Eyes tend to look right when accessing the part of the brain associated with the imagination and left when accessing memory.
Eye contact in business
The instinctual and often complex feelings associated with the different types of eye contact can’t be separated from oneself from during business hours. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Use it to your advantage by watching the eye movements of a candidate during an interview, or when confronting an employee about a disciplinary issue.
Eye contact isn’t just about gaining the upper hand though. It also shows that you’re listening. And while you can probably listen and type out an email at the same time, eye contact can make employees and colleagues feel heard and appreciated; a great opportunity to encourage a warm and encouraging environment for all.