In this post I want to discuss the importance of eye contact in our non verbal communication.
Did you ever wonder why it's so hard to have a conversation with someone who avoids your eyes? After all, we do the listening with our ears, so why does it matter?
Did you know that people who maintain eye contact usually perceived as more reliable, warm, sociable, honest, confident and active?
A Remarkable set of personality traits concluded from just a single behavior, don't you think?
In this post I mean to try to answer the "why" behind these questions - the importance of eye contact. Let's take a closer look and see what the buzz is all about:
I think the easiest explanation to why we need eye contact, and lots of it, is because it shows attention, and we just LOVE when others pay attention to us…
The eyes serve as the focal points of the body – The eyes are the first thing we look for in the face - It's only natural to look at the body part that is able to see the… gaze, don't you think?
Combined with the fact that we look at things that interest us and away from things that don't, we get to the idea that: when we point our eyes to meet another's - he becomes the center of our attention and interest.
This of course can be either very good ("she's totally into me!") or very bad ("I think I'm in big trouble now…") but the focus remains the same.
The opposite is also true; you don't need me to tell how bad it feels when someone's gaze is pointed anywhere but your eyes. It immediately sends feelings of insecurity, deceit, annoyance or general disliking from their side.
It's especially true nowadays, when everyone seem to pay more attention to their phones rather than to each other. Don't you hate it when your friends reach out for their phone in every idle moment of conversation? It feels like saying "I think we're done here… so I'll just look into more interesting stuff than you…"
So by avoiding your phone or other distractions in order to maintain eye contact, you send a message of appreciation and respect towards others, and in turn, they like and respect you more.
Think about eye contact as the pipeline that nonverbal communication flows through. Keep it open and flowing and you halfway through in creating good impression.
One of the things that makes eye contact so hard for some people is the fact that maintaining it can feel very revealing… it feels like someone is staring directly into your mind, and you are – into theirs. There is no room to hide... No place to hide emotions or thoughts.
In reality, people can still fake and lie through the eyes. Trained liars know that most people think a direct stare signals honesty and reliability, so they force themselves to stare squarely into your eyes.
It doesn't make it easy for most of us though, especially when trying to mask emotions of anger, fear or surprise. These emotions can leak quickly through the eyes, so we often avert the gaze to hide our true feelings. Ironically, it also the signal that often gives away our insecurity to others.
That's why holding eye contact is more than just a physical trick (or, simply staring at one point). It has a lot to do with how secure and confident you feel about yourself. People who are comfortable in creating eye contact usually feel secure and good about themselves (or at least appear to be so) around others- they aren't afraid to show who they are 'inside'.
The human is a social being, we are made to cooperate and communicate with each other to gain our goals. We care about others and share some bond even with complete strangers.
This is possible thanks to "mirror neurons" in our brain, aka "monkey see – monkey do" neurons. Basically, these cells become active in our brain when we see or hear an action that's happening to someone else. It enables us to feel like we're doing it or feeling it ourselves.
For Example, if you see someone get hit hard in the face, you may also recoil or touch your face as if you were hit. Of course you wouldn't feel the physical impact of the hit, but you might still feel uncomfortable and tense.
These mirror neurons gives us the ability of feeling empathy towards each other and understand how others feel only by the expression of their face or their posture. It's especially visible through the eyes.
It's quite amazing to see that we can relate to and distinguish emotions from one single gaze.
Here's an excellent videos that explain how mirror neurons discovered and work:
We talked about the main reasons that make eye contact such a vital part in our communication. One of the things I find fascinating about body language is the way we accept our behavior without thinking about the 'why?' behind it. I hope that now that you know how eye contact works, it will help you understand why others act as they act.