Maintaining eye contact sounds so simple right? Wrong. Like a solid handshake, utilising eye contact as a communication tool takes skill and finesse to do it right. It comes down to striking the perfect balance between maintaining eye contact and breaking the gaze every once in a while. No one likes a close talker or a dude who stares unblinkingly into your eyes for over 30 seconds. Lifestyle guru Aaron Marino (of alpha m.) says that holding a gaze should only last between 5-10 seconds. It lets the recipient know you’re interested without freaking him or her out.
Here’s a quick eye contact breakdown for those who don’t like watching videos:
Tip #1 – When you’re the person speaking and you’re talking to one person, be sure to “break the gaze” after 5-10 seconds. Breaking the gaze does not mean suddenly looking elsewhere for another 5-10 seconds, it means a simple drift after which you can restore eye contact for another short period of time. This method helps ensure the other person won’t get freaked out by you staring zombie-like into his or her eyes minute after minute.
Tip #2 – If you’re the person speaking and you’re addressing a group of people, don’t focus on just one person in the audience for over 2-3 seconds. Keep those eyes on the move so the majority of audience members don’t feel neglected.
Tip #3 – When you’re the listener and one person is speaking, the same 5-10 second rule from Tip #1 applies with one little addendum. Marino suggests that in addition to breaking eye contact after 5-10 seconds you should also toss in the occasional sign of interest. That means lightly nodding your head or saying “mm hmm” a few times, etc. This way the person knows you’re paying attention even when eye contact is broken.
Tip #4 – Stay aware of things like your eyebrows and facial expressions. After all, it’s not just the eyes sending signals, but the entire face. An angry snarl or furrowed eyebrows will send an angry message. In other words, watch those lips, eyebrows, and everything else.
Tip #5 – When you break gaze, choose the next target wisely. Don’t look away to your phone. In fact, don’t even have your phone out at all. Every time you look at it you’re sending a message that your phone is more important than the person you’re speaking to.