The Power of Eye Contact
Power of eye contact, I love talking about because it's so important, it's so impactful and you use it everyday or you should. Eye contact is important but I do want to clarify that it is not really for the reason that you think. It's not that you have to have mega powerful like, super six sigma executive level eye contact with people. You don't have to be that person like a news anchor. The reason that is important is that what truths, and I say that in quotations, what truths have we been taught about those who can't hold eye contact? What do we assume about them automatically because of what people have said? We can run down the list, untrustworthy, disloyal, shifty, shifty eyes, shady, anyone else have anything to add?
[Audience Whisper] Insecure.
Yep, nice, insecure, unconfident, can't meet the gaze, that's a great one. Uh, so I say truths because a lot of these have been actually scientifically proven to be untrue but that doesn't matter because that's what people think anywa...
y. There are two keys to eye contact. Might not surprise you but it's being able to hold it, it's being able to get past that insecurity that you have within yourself, being able to deal with that tension that you feel when people are staring you in the eye, deep into your soul. And the second part is knowing how to hold it, knowing how to wield it, how much to use, when to use that amount, what kind of eyes they have. So there's two parts, again, just like with conversation. It's getting there, knowing how to use it once you're there. Oh, I already said this. Being able to deal with hold eye contact is all about dealing with the tension, you're dealing with that tension that happens when you stare into someone's eyes, it feels uncomfortable, that's what I mean by tension, for even the best of it, best of us, it feels a little out of character, it feels uncomfortable but what you need to do is you need to build immunity to it and that unfortunately is the exercise that we can talk about for the viewers at home, for people to do otherwise, for people to do after this course, after today, unimaginatively named The Sunglasses Stare Exercise, and what it does is that it helps you become immune to the tension. All that's needed is sunglasses and people, so here's the setup, you're gonna take a pair of sunglasses, I know it gets dark at like 3PM nowadays but you can find it in the morning, just take a coffee break, go outside, put on, flip on a pair of sunglasses, you're gonna sit on the sidewalk facing oncoming foot traffic. People are walking this way, all you're gonna do, you're gonna stare them in the eye. Each one that walk by, you're gonna stare them in the eye. So what that does is, that gives you this eye contact, that tension, that uncomfortableness, that feeling but in a very safe way where you're not vulnerable at all, and you'll notice a couple things, they'll notice that people won't make eye contact with you even though they know you're not looking or they think you're not looking cuz they can't see your eyes. So it tells you that other people are not good with eye contact. The other thing you'll notice is that, if they do make eye contact, it will be for a flash second and then they'll divert their eyes. So that also tells us that people are not comfortable with this, so the base line for being good at eye contact is pretty low. But this sunglasses stare exercise is really gonna help condition your immunity to that tension and again, all you need is sunglasses and people. And sunlight, I guess. Now that you have the tension immunity, now that you've been able to get there, how do you hold eye contact? How do you do it? How do you use it? How do you use it without feeling invasive, creepy? Oh yeah. (audience laughing) I don't know, I probably won't be able to get volunteers for this one, uh, unless maybe, yeah please please, yes, thanks man. I know right?
My name is Jesse, by the way, Jesse.
Oh, not Justin, sorry about that. This is Jesse, okay, thanks Jesse for stepping up. So, bedroom eyes, okay, it's all about, yeah, (laughing) all we're doing, yeah right? All we're doing is, I'm just gonna be walking towards you (laughing) and I'm not breaking my gaze, you can look away but I'll still be here, are you uncomfortable?
I'm feeling pretty good.
I have coffee breath, so.
Look at you, we'll get matching gum later.
Actually, I have some gum.
Oh cool. (laughing) Okay, that wasn't uncomfortable for you? For that staring?
It was alright.
It was alright.
Oh wow, it's cuz you're bigger than me. (laughing) uh, but so, what usually happens is that..
You made me feel comfortable.
(sighs) it should've been weirder, okay. (laughing) So what usually happens is, though, that you have this gaze, this unwavering dead gaze, so this is actually the opposite of bedroom eyes, right? Well, maybe if I do it like this, right? I'm just staring at you, you can stare away but I'll still be here and I'm getting closer to you.
Yeah, when it's closer, it's kinda, it's kinda weird.
So, that's all it was, that's all it was, there you go.
That was the exercise?
That was it, that was it, it was just a, he didn't get as uncomfortable, as uncomfortable as most people get, uh.
The closer you got though, it was, yeah.
Yeah, and what was uncomfortable about it?
(sigh) I think just being, yeah, the eye contact and
Like you're creeping up on me.
Yeah, creeping up on you, see, that's the adjective that we always use right? It's creeping up on me, I don't feel good about that, I feel weird about that, uh, bedroom eyes, so you can see the difference, right? Is if I just do that to you, if I stare with intunity, if I just have dead eyes or zombie eyes as I hold them, it's the difference between menacing, creepy, invasive, uncomfortable and you know, actually, engaging and making it seem like you're paying attention to someone or you're listening to your talking.
I think it would've been different if I didn't know you, or if I just met you, then yeah.
Yeah but it's true. Just wasn't energetic.
No, you're actually, that's a very good point. We kind of have reporter built already and I've been talking at you for like an hour already so, it's different. What if you do that for someone on the street, right? Someone that you've just met, it's like, what are this, what is this person's intentions? I need to take a shower. (laughing) So, how much eye contact should you use? This is one of the first parts. When you are speaking, you wanna use about eye contact about 50% of the time, and the reason for that is because if you don't, you look confrontational, when you're saying something and you're looking at someone and you're staring at someone, you look like you're expecting something, you look like you're waiting, you want something from them, and for most of us, that may, that might look like you're being confrontational. 75% when you're listening, so when you're listening, you wanna be giving eye contact 75% of the time or you're uninterested or you're like, you're in space-land or you're, space. You're in space, you're just not paying attention, so that gives 75% roughly, gives that level of engagement that people are looking for, so that they know that they're not talking to a wall. What kind of eye contact should you use? This is also a very important point. What distinguishes engaged eyes that are listening from zombie eyes, dead eyes that make people uncomfortable? It's a very easy way that I've come up with to think about. So, television news anchor, subspecialist just staring into the camera, I don't even know if they blink, it's just staring. So that would be bad usage of eye contact. Good usage of eye, good usage of eye contact, imagine how you look when you watch puppies play, watch puppies play, there's like a dachshund, there's a chihuahua, like a kitten starts wrestling with them, think about how your face looks, it softens up your eyes, your eyebrows go up, they become soft, you show emotion, you become expressive. So again, and I don't know where I should be looking for, (chuckles) news anchor versus puppy playing. Big difference. (laughing) Big difference in conversation. So that's the difference. So actually, that's it on eye contact, I wanted to keep that one relatively short and compact because there's a lot to it but there's not that many things to focus on that you should really concern yourself with. Yeah please.
I got a question. Is it a rule where your eyes go when they're not in the 50% or the 75%, when you're not doing the dead on eye contact, is there some kind of a rule of where your eyes should go? Cuz you're looking away, then you may look uninterested.
Yeah, that's a good question. Uh, what I usually tell, so there's two places that I usually tell, two ways, two things to do, uh, great question actually, I'm very glad you brought that up. When you're not making a direct eye contact, there's this triangle right here that still looks like you're paying attention and you're engaged, the triangle being basically, nose, cheek bone, cheek bone, kinda just shift your attention here, looks like you're thinking about it, you're acknowledging them and then what you can also do is, you can throw in your reactions and this is something that we'll get into later, when you're reacting physically, non verbally, you're gonna look away sometimes, like for example, what I did just there, that's a reaction. So these are the little things that you can pepper in with you eye contact to not give 100% eye contact, 100% of the time.
Does that kind of answer it?
Yeah, mm hmm.
We've got a eye contact question coming in from online, so this one is from Susanne and she says that, I have an eye injury that make it awkward to keep deep eye contact, is that something where I should just explain the injury right off the bat? She doesn't wanna look shifty but you know, you may not be comfortable dealing with that.
Uh, I mean, can I, can we ask what kind of..
I mean, she may respond, it may take a second, there's a little bit of a lag there.
I think any sort of eye issue when you're not comfortable with it, how do you adjust for that?
Uh, I think it's not, so, well, eye contact is one of a part of a million signs and social cues that we read from body language. I don't think you need to address that until at the very beginning, don't, I don't even think it's probably that noticeable.
For most people. To her, it's the elephant in the room, for most other people it's gonna be unnoticeable. Uh, don't bring it up, don't address it but also remember, you only need to do it 50% of the time. Maybe less, maybe more, depending on the person, it's not a lot, the base line is very low for eye contact.
Great and do these all apply if you're also doing an interview, if you're in sort of that VIP conversation again, if somebody maybe empowered, does that change eye contact at all? Or is it still just about that 50%?
That's an interesting question because then, you begin to talk about power differentials.
Right, right, right.
Which I think it's what you're getting at. Power differentials, when someone has higher status or clearly has the power over you, uh yeah, some people, boy, this is a can of worms, but generally, you keep the same or you do a little bit less and be more deferential.