Today’s Social Graces Saturday is about the importance of eye contact. Why would I include this in a day dedicated to social graces? You might think that eye contact has nothing to do with etiquette. I understand why at first it might be confusing, but I’m going to share why it really is important.
Eye contact, or lack thereof, can influence the way you are perceived as much as the way you speak, dress, or your manners. All those things could be impeccable but if you break the rules of eye contact you might not be getting all of the respect you deserve. It’s shocking how much a simple thing like eye contact can shape how successful you are in life. Here’s why.
If we are with someone who seeks out eye contact when speaking with us, we tend to think that they are more believable, self-assured, competent, and likeable. This is exactly why when I teach etiquette, I always teach how to enter an interview room, and sit down without breaking eye contact. Studies show we tend make more eye contact when we are talking with someone we admire, or who we view to be in a power position. Also, interestingly females make more face to face eye contact then their male counterparts. Maybe because eye contact is important during the bonding of a mother and child.
We tend to break eye contact when we feel ashamed embarrassed, sad, we also might break it for other reasons such as being shy. If you have ever been in a space with strangers like an elevator, or in a situation where people ask for volunteers I would guess you have broken eye contact. I know I have. Interestingly, we think that if someone is lying they will break eye contact, but actually it’s the reverse. Liars tend to overcompensate by making exaggerated eye contact in a way to try and “convince” you that they are being sincere.
Look in particular at your love relationships. Eye contact makes us feel more connected to the object of our affection. If the old saying is true that the eyes are the window to the soul then that makes total sense. We gaze into their eyes. It’s no surprise that eye contact is a major factor in the process of falling in love.
Eye contact is even important to other species. It can be a sign of aggression in the animal world. However, once you have a bond with your canine, and they view you as their mother aka pack leader, they will seek out eye contact with you. It releases love hormones in them similar to what is released in human mother-baby eye contact.
My personal eye contact story is when I was a teenager I used to walk down the hallway smile and make eye contact with people. Then good ole bullying changed that. They said that I thought that I was very important, because I was making eye contact with everyone in the hallway. I know it’s really stupid, but bullies don’t have to make sense right? Anyway, after that I made a conscious effort not to make eye contact when walking down the hall. I would look down at the floor. Here’s the part that really ticks me off. That habit that I taught myself back then has followed me into adulthood. Now, I will be walking and notice that I am not engaging with people. I am looking at the floor. It’s at that point when I tell myself “Dana look up! Make eye contact!” Every time I catch myself it makes me angry. That I let something like that influence me so much, and that I let them change who I am.
It’s really fascinating how much a small thing like eye contact can make so much difference in your world. Whether it is shaping your personal or professional life, how much or how little eye contact you make is sending an impression to those around you. No matter if they realize it or not it is influencing their opinion of you. So until next time, pay attention to when and to whom you “give the eye”, and as always stay glamorous.