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Why is eye contact important?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Our eyes provide us with the incomparable gift of sight, but they’re also excellent communicators.

That’s right – your eyes are critical in facilitating communication. What they convey can completely change the mood of a conversation.

From empathy to anger, our eyes are windows to what we’re feeling. Have you ever seen someone smile, but their eyes don’t match the spirit of the grin?

Why is eye contact important?

When you maintain eye contact with someone throughout a conversation, you’re showing them that you respect them and the words they have to say. If your eyes were to wander around, flitting across the scenery while the other person is speaking, they would likely think you’re not paying adequate attention.

That doesn’t mean you should stare – that would make the other person uncomfortable. But sustained, genuine eye contact goes a long way toward demonstrating that you’re truly listening to the conversation and are engaged.

What does eye contact convey?

Making eye contact during a conversation establishes trust. If someone chooses not to make eye contact with you, it could be a sign that they’re being dishonest with their words.

It’s also a great way to bond with the person you’re engaging with. Using our eyes, we can communicate empathy for what they’re feeling and going through. If their words and eyes indicate that they’re frustrated, your eyes can reflect that, too. If they’re ecstatic over good news they’ve just received, your eyes can show that same excitement.

Another feeling that eye contact can foster is confidence. When you sustain eye contact with someone, you’re showing that you’re confident in yourself. On the other hand, looking away and/or blinking frequently during a conversation can be a sign of submissiveness.

But how much eye contact is too much? As mentioned above, staring is inappropriate, but it can be difficult to figure out how and when to look away and when to look back at the person you’re talking to. The best rule to follow is the 50/70 rule, which states that you should hold eye contact for 50 percent of the time you’re speaking and 70 percent of the time when listening. Now, we’re not suggesting that you time your conversation to ensure you’re following the rule precisely. But it’s a good rule of thumb to bear in mind as you engage in your next watercooler chat.