Chapter 7. The Eyes Have It
Eye contact is the easiest and most immediate nonverbal that people notice. It can be subtle or direct, and knowing how to mix the two is a major part of the art of building relationships. How much is too much or too little varies with the culture, gender, and context. Eye contact works best when both parties feel it is just right. Therefore, take your cues from the other person and match their preference for how much direct eye contact to use.
Direct eye contact can be a nonverbal signal of confidence, yet it is one of the most overrated and misunderstood of the nonverbal behaviors. It is also the most often misused nonverbal. Many books suggest that if you don't make constant direct eye contact with someone, you are untrustworthy. Nonsense! I have even heard one expert recommend gluing your eyes to the other person when you want to make a good impression. I'm all for looking at someone when in conversation, but too much (or too little) eye contact is not only disrespectful but downright creepy. It is okay to break eye contact. This happens naturally all the time during conversations. In fact, it is easier to process what you are hearing when you break eye contact. Many times we look away for a moment to follow the speaker's hand gestures or a distraction. Over the course of normal, positive conversation, eye contact is a series of long glances instead of intense stares.
Where Do I Put My Eyes?
There really are only a couple of places we can put our eyes ...