How to Master the Art of Eye Contact

Posted October 5, 2015 - Revised October 5, 2015

Whether you're out on a date, trying to make a sale or at a job interview - maintaining the proper amount of eye contact helps to convey interest in what the other person is saying and connect with them on a deeper level.

Numerous studies have shown that a person who maintains good eye contact is seen as more trustworthy and likeable than a person who tends to avoid contact. Studies also have shown the eye contact doesn’t even have to come from an actual person. One particular study found people connected more with cereal brands that had an image of a character looking directly at them on the box front, as opposed to characters not 'making eye contact.'

Maintaining eye contact, like other aspects of communication, is a skill - and it requires some practice to master. You need to maintain enough eye contact to appear interested in what another person is saying, while avoiding making them feel uncomfortable.

A few basics

A good rule of thumb is to look long enough to determine what color the other person's eyes are. Usually about two or three seconds, this length of time is enough to maintain adequate eye contact without being excessive or creepy.

However, this rule shouldn't dominate your interaction. If you find the other person becoming uncomfortable, decrease your amount of eye contact accordingly.

Watching the eyes for signs of interest

When people are particularly interested in something, their pupils tend to dilate, and this can be a sign of a person's interest in what you are saying. Gauging pupil diameter should be taken within the larger context of all other nonverbal cues. Relying solely on pupil diameter as a sign of interest can be particularly problematic if your interviewer has a medical condition or is taking medication that dilates their pupils.

In addition to pupil diameter, many other aspects of the eyes can convey nonverbal information. Heavy eyelids indicate fatigue. Red eyes can indicate that someone is sick or suffering from allergies. Watery eyes can indicate someone is becoming upset. All of these subtle clues should be considered when conveying your message.

Maintaining eye contact over Skype

It should be noted that technology is allowing us to have face-to-face conversations through the Internet, and you should be trying to establish eye contact during these conversations as well. Eye contact is a bit different over Skype because it involves looking into a camera lens. However, many of the same rules apply, especially following the other person's cues. It may feel a bit unnatural at first, but with practice, eye contact over Skype will become second nature.

At Ambassador, one of the leading employment firms in the South, we know the importance of face-to-face conversations, particularly when it comes to interviewing for a job. If you’re worried about your interviewing skills, feel free to visit one of our offices in person, and we can help you win over your next interviewer.