Growing up I remember my parents always telling me “when you talk to someone, make sure you look them in the eye”.
As a child I never considered the importance of what that implied nor did I ever think it would shape how people perceive me and the level of confidence I exude. Lately I’ve been paying more attention to how people (especially those that are tall) communicate with others. In particular how much eye contact they make, how confident they appear and how the other person responds to them. My observations left me shocked; a majority of people I observed simply did not make much eye contact throughout their interaction and if they did it was for a very brief moment.
I believe that people who make and keep eye contact leave an impression because, very clearly, they are communicating two things: confidence and awareness.
A tall person standing with good posture can appear confident but the level of eye contact they make (or avoid making) will quickly give them away (if they are faking their confidence). I’ve seen this first hand in the workplace. I’ve seen a person taller than me (whom I always thought was really confident) talking to someone much shorter and they failed to make or hold eye contact, their body language suggested they were nervous and very quickly I could see their exuded confidence crumble.
This is why I believe it’s crucial for every tall person to develop the habit of maintaining good eye contact. Being tall gives you the automatic advantage of temporary confidence upon first impression, assuming you are standing with good posture. Learn how to turn this temporary confidence into a more permanent thing.
The Rules of Eye Contact
Making and holing eye contact can feel unnatural or awkward at first, especially if you don’t do it very often, but that’s simply because it’s a new thing. The most important thing to remember is that eye contact is not staring. Don’t lock eyes with the person you are talking too and try to bore a hole through their head or you’ll come off as threatening and very intimidating. Also, try not to pick a single spot to focus on their face, that is not eye contact and will most likely make the other person feel self-conscious.
To make effective eye contact, look into their eyes and maintain that contact for a count of three or five seconds. While you’re talking, it is better to keep your eye contact a touch on the shorter side and look around as you speak. When listening, it is more beneficial to maintain slightly longer periods of contact, indicating your (hopefully sincere) interest. When you break eye contact, don’t look down, a sign of submission, but rather up (remembrance) or break contact with a smile or laugh, as long as it’s appropriate. After breaking eye contact, be sure to resume it.
Why Eye Contact is Important
The ability to make and hold eye contact is a skill everyone should work on. If you aren’t convinced here are some more reasons why you should make an effort to do it more:
- Make yourself appear more personable.
- Make yourself appear more qualified, skilled, competent, and valuable.
- Make yourself appear more trustworthy and sincere.
- Makes you appear more confident.
Trial it for a while and see for yourself. You will exude a real level of confidence and generally, from personal experience, I find that people will respond to you favorably and are more likely to respect you.
What are your thoughts about all of this? Let me know how you go in the comments below.
Stand tall and be proud.
- Image credit for X-Men Cyclops (cover image): here