The role of eye contact in successful communication
On the surface, this may sound rather dubious. Surely successful communication is all about how you present yourself, your tone and your choice of words?
Well yes, for the most part. But there are certain factors that either endear or antagonize you, and this subconscious first impression more or less translated into the final outcome.
So, what works towards presenting a positive image?
Well, a cheerful attitude is one. A friendly demeanor, sure. But, most importantly, your eye contact and how it varies at different points during the discussion to suit the situation. Let me elaborate…
This may be something most of us notice, but deem too insignificant to retain. Whether it’s a stranger you’re talking to or a close personal/business comrade, stronger eye contact tends to denote greater comfort and security in that person’s company, and that you’re free of any inhibitions. This works in group dynamics too. Imagine telling a joke surrounded by 3-4 people. You invariably tend to focus on the person you wanted to get the joke the most, and see how they react. In other words, sustained eye contact translates to genuine sincerity, something you can use in personal or business negotiations. Frequent eye contact with the opposite member will result in greater trust, and more chance of a positive reaction, provided the actual content of what you’re saying is full of substance as well.
Carrying on from the previous point, significant eye contact is directly proportional to the extent of interest you tend to show in what the other person has to say. It is tough to manipulate this semi-involuntary reaction, but it may be important to do so when trying to sell a client a deal or having a personal talk with your better half. Listening is as important as talking during a crucial moment such as this, and strong eye contact equals half the job done in most cases. However, be aware of the difference between frequent eye contact (which show warmth) as opposed to a prolonged stare (more on this one in point 4). If you can train yourself to do this frequently, you cannot fail to make a positive impression and, by extension, a positive communication.
Circumvent a potentially hostile situation
A hostile scenario is not unusual in the midst of carrying out office duties, whether it’s an unfriendly prospective client, frustrated customer, or even an enraged boss/colleague. In such cases, eye contact and body language can help you assuage the situation. A furious customer or a critical boss is highly unlikely to stay that way for long if the person on the receiving end looks them in the eye confidently and issues a well worded apology. The situation is completely diffused then and there, rather than exacerbating into a fully fledged shouting match.
Communicate a range of emotions at a glance
To put it simply, a wide range of emotions can be conveyed non-verbally, through simple eye contact. A reassuring look tells a friend that you’re backing him to the hilt, without using any words. A prolonged stare may well imply hostility and belligerence towards someone. In a similar situation such as an unfriendly communication, unflinching eye contact with the opposite number shows that you’re confident of dominating the situation, and not ready to back down. Such is the power of non verbal communication that, with the right amount and type of contact and expression, you can convey just about anything you want to.