A tricky subject.
Aren’t we taught as kids to look others in the eye while talking?
Well, it’s way more complicated than that.
You may wind up in awkward or difficult situations if:
- You look at somebody for more than 5 seconds.
- Your eyes dart away as soon as you say hello.
- You misinterpret people’s eye contact.
Those non-verbal communication slip-ups can hurt your reputation at work, or ruin a first date before it even starts.
But don’t worry. I’m here to help you avoid them.
This article discusses 10 eye contact mistakes that men should watch out for, and how to overcome them.
Click Here To Watch The Video on YouTube – Communicating With Your Eyes
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Click Here To Watch The Video – Mistakes When You Look People In The Eye
Mistake #1 – Not Enough Eye Contact
Making eye contact is a crucial thing in life. And whether you like it or not, the lack of it can spell disaster over time in your career and relationships.
For those living in the U.S. or Canada, focus on the 50/70 rule of eye contact. This means looking at someone in the eye 50% of the time while speaking to them, and 70% while listening. Those are optimum percentages for people in North America as revealed by studies at Michigan State University.
Mistake #2 – Too Much Eye Contact
However, if people see you looking at them too much – especially if there are others you’re also talking to – you may come across as aggressive. And no one wants to feel like the person across from them is out for blood. It’s unsettling!
Even I have gotten criticism for looking directly at the camera too much on my videos. But rest assured I’ve been working on that. So once more, the 50/70 needs to be taken seriously.
If you’re preparing for an upcoming presentation or sales pitch, I suggest reading this article on persuasion and looking people in the eye. It’ll provide some guidance on how to be less aggressive and rather, more compelling in your speech.
Mistake #3 – Not Doing It Long Enough
We’ve covered how often you should make eye contact with others. But there’s one other major piece of the puzzle: how long you should maintain it each time.
Those in parts of North America generally may look at people for 3-5 seconds. Going under 3 or past 5 can make appear more timid or aggressive.
So how do you ensure you stay within that range? Try learning to count 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi in your mind when your eyes meet the other person’s. Eventually, it’ll become natural to you.
Mistake #4 – Not Knowing The Norms Of Your Culture
Here’s the reality. How often, how long or when to make eye contact mainly depends on the culture and customs of where you are. Outside of North America and some parts of Europe, the 50/70 rule and the 3-5 seconds duration may not necessarily work.
So research and be ready to do some adjusting if you’re traveling from the West to an Eastern country or vice-versa. In the U.S. and Canada, making eye contact is not just encouraged. It’s considered necessary for establishing yourself in virtually any industry. But if you’re a Western guy who’s talking to someone from India or China, remember that they have different ways of thinking.
For some cultures, less is more. Looking directly at people’s eyes can signal intimidation or rudeness. In many Asian countries, avoiding or minimizing eye contact with superiors is viewed as showing respect – not weakness or shyness. And some religious groups are careful about men and women making eye contact due to their strict laws regarding marriage and relationships.
Doing your homework here is a must. Ignorance is no excuse, especially in this day and age when we grab hold of information in a matter of clicks.
Mistake #5 – Reading Too Much Into People’s Eye Contact
Yes. This is a mistake that many guys are guilty of, especially when it’s an attractive woman on the other side.
If you notice this woman looking you in the eye first, keep your feet on the ground. Don’t assume she’s suddenly into you and wants to have your children. Maybe it happens you were just in her way, or she’s wondering if you’re someone she met before. There are several possibilities.
Now if that woman looks you in the eye again or a couple of times, it could be a different story. Maybe you can approach her. Maybe you’re both at a bar and she’s sending out signals for you to come over – since not all women are inclined to do the approaching. But never feel 100% sure about this. It could all still be a misunderstanding in the end.
Mistake #6 – Not Establishing Eye Contact At The Start
This is one of the worst things that make a poor first impression. It could be your first day at work and you’re formally being introduced. Even though you’re nervous, before you even start using your voice, establish eye contact with everyone in the room. Even if others aren’t paying you their full attention.
In these types of scenarios, you’re the fish out of water. It’s your duty to break the ice. Take the initiative to make eye contact while greeting each person, and extend your arm to shake their hand. There’s no better way to express self-confidence right then and there.
Mistake #7 – Not Knowing How Much Eye Contact To Make With Authority
Success in anything isn’t just about having the right skills and gaining experience. There’s the verbal and non-verbal communication you’ve got to master, especially with your boss and the higher-ups of a company.
Again, study how to go about making eye contact with authority before you start any job, or better yet before you get interviewed. Take into account the setting, the culture, and background of those you could be working for. As once said by Confucius, success in all things depends on your preparation.
Mistake #8 – Looking Away Too Quickly
Nerves are a big part of why this happens. If you tend to feel so nervous that your eyes shift their focus, bear in mind that it’s not just you. The other person probably also cares what you might think of them. Don’t be chained to that kind of fear.
Don’t forget about counting from to 1 to 3 in your head. And when you feel it’s time to look away, try to do it slowly towards either your left or your right. Moving your eyes in multiple directions will only disorient you and turn off the other person.
Mistake #9 – Not Listening With Your Eyes
If you recall the 50/70 rule, it’s best to maintain eye contact with whomever you’re listening to 70% – over two-thirds – of the time. This is the ideal amount whether it’s your wife, your manager or professor speaking (at least for most Western cultures).
During the moments you’re not looking, you still have to do stuff that indicates you’re paying attention. It could be writing down notes during a class or company meeting. Or while your wife talks about her day, you could smile while glancing at your cup of coffee to take a sip. These might seem like small matters, but they point out how much respect you’re giving others.
Mistake #10 – Looking At The Wrong Things
Train your eyes to understand that there’s only one acceptable focal area when you look at someone: the face.
Don’t float your eyes towards other body parts and risk being reported – or fired – for sexual harassment. The pupils don’t lie if you’re indeed staring at a female colleague’s breasts when you’re supposed to discuss a project.
If you catch yourself doing something less offensive, like looking at somebody’s fancy watch or brand new shoes, you can save yourself by dishing out a compliment and asking where they got that item. But that’s as far as you can go after messing up. Redirect your eyes to the person’s face while speaking or listening. You may find it easier to look at just one of their eyes instead of both, or at the area below the eyes.
Bonus Tip: Look at people’s eyes directly when you make eye contact, but with the goal of finding out their eye color. “Is my coworker Amy’s eyes green or hazel?” This can be a fun exercise that’ll prevent you from looking elsewhere. It might also help you remember new names every time.
How Do You Avoid All These Mistakes? Practice.
Being aware of these mistakes means you’re off to a great start. But that’s only about 20-30% of the job. You won’t be able to overcome them without practice.
Some ways you can practice proper eye contact:
- Talk to yourself in the mirror.
- Record yourself speaking or presenting. Watch the footage, count how many times you looked at the camera directly, and measure how long you looked on average.
- Ask close friends or family to observe you while doing a mock presentation. Get their comments regarding eye contact (request for total honesty).
With this practice, you’ll get better at sensing whenever you’re doing it right or wrong. Over time, making eye contact for 3-5 seconds and not looking outside of people’s faces will become the norm for you. You’ll ultimately gain so much confidence. And trust me – confidence works wonders for making eye contact, and for socializing in general.