3 Assumptions That Come With Poor Eye Contact
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
What you do with your clothing, your hair, your shoes, your stance, your gestures — all these things convey a profound, rich sense. But your eyes often convey messages, and your ability to get ideas and develop personal or business relationships can be jeopardised by failing to maintain good eye contact with your conversation partner. Cues from the eyes are always very subtle, but if you do not try to regulate your eye contact in conversations, here's how you could come across to other people.
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1. You have not planned or are highly unprepared for your thoughts.
When we consider, pause, or speak in a non-fluent manner, we generally look away. This behaviour undoubtedly serves two purposes, the first of which is to psychologically protect themselves from the humiliation of being criticised for not continuing. Second, without the interruption of the visual feedback they will get from their conversation partner, it helps them to concentrate.
This can easily be fixed with:
Giving your brain time to process what you want to come next, slow down the speech slightly. Until you answer, be upfront and casually ask for a few seconds to think. Try to communicate in concrete words rather than abstract ones.
2. You don’t want to continue the conversation anymore.
For an acceptable time, holding someone's eyes is a nonverbal signal that shows the other person that you are interested and want to keep talking. By comparison, breaking eye contact communicates that you don't want to continue the conversation and want a distance that can be rooted in the psychological need to shield yourself from the perceived humiliation, guilt, or other negative feelings that may emerge from the interaction.
Let’s try and fix that! Here’s how.
Ask more questions which are open-ended. To prove you can be observant and optimistic, drop a compliment or two into the conversation. Prep a few things to chat about in advance so that you can eliminate awkward lulls that might confirm that you are awkward. Keep up the chin. Lowering the chin is a self-protective, submissive move, while trust is shown by holding the chin up. If you don't encourage the chin to obey, it's also harder to let your eyes slip away from your conversational partner.
3. You think you're better than the person you're listening to or have a higher social status.
During conversation, general lowering of the eyes will give the message you submit to your conversation partner. So, if you don't look at the other person at all, you're basically saying “You're not important” or, slightly more egotistically, “I get to determine when you're important. I'm in charge.”
So, how do you fix this?
Physically position yourself to prevent the appearance of power, such as sitting next to the person you're talking to, rather than in front of him. "Summarize the key points, so your partner knows that you have been processing what they have said, using inclusive, inviting terminology such as "we", “our” or "Can you tell me about?”
The above suggestions will minimise the chances that you'll look away when you talk, or that if you do, you'll feel uncomfortable. But there's no need for you to quit. Other little tips, such as maintaining eye contact with yourself in a mirror for three or four seconds at a time or getting used to eye contact via video apps, can also help. The key point is to consider the reason that ultimately pushes you to look away. You can select the option to fix your poor eye contact that works best once you accept the root of the issue.
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