Eye Contact: It’s Uncomfortable
Are you shy? Do you find eye contact to be uncomfortable? Do you consider networking a necessary evil?
My friend, you are not alone! You see, eye contact is arguably the most importance non-verbal communication skill. However, it is one of the most difficult to master.
For one, there is very little margin for error. For example, too much eye contact can come off as hostile. Too little, submissive. Poor eye contact can come off as arrogant, submissive, and kill a conversation before it even starts.
It’s not hard to see why good eye contact is important for networking!
But, the hardest part? For many it is SUPER uncomfortable. And when we are uncomfortable, we tend not to do things with full commitment. Without commitment comes error.
Basically, the fear of doing poorly with eye contact prevents us from doing it well! What a tricky situation!
Eye Contact: It’s Also Very Important!
Nevertheless, that’s no reason to toss it aside! Especially since eye contact can save a conversation, even if you don’t know what to say! Consider the following benefits of eye contact:
It makes people feel respected.
You can portray a variety of emotions that can’t be explained in words.
It makes others feel comfortable.
It affirms your partner that you are communicating with them.
It connects people together.
As you can imagine, creating deep and meaningful connections at networking events is crucial! In fact, the #1 complaint I hear about networking is that it feel “fake” and contrived. In other words, people feel like they aren’t making a genuine connection with others.
But solid eye contact in and of itself can mitigate this feeling drastically! The ability to put others at ease and connect with them by a glance is incredibly powerful – especially for making real connections!
With that said, let’s look at a few ways we can turn eye contact into a powerful tool to make real connections at your next networking event!
5 Effective Eye-Contact Tips for Networking
1. The 5 Second Rule – When in doubt, maintain unbroken eye contact for five seconds at a time. Some of these other tips will show you when to change this rule. But, as a general rule of thumb, this will get you pretty far!
2. Listen and Look Less – This tip from Michigan State University shows that when we listen, we should be keeping eye contact 50% of the time. When we speak, we can bump this up to 70%. Overall, these will generally fall around 5 second increments as mentioned before.
3. The Side Break – When you break eye contact, a good rule of thumb is to look briefly to the side. Looking down comes off as passive. Looking up (at least while speaking) can come off as arrogant. However, the “side break” is a neutral tactic that prevents your from staring your partner down!
4. Right Between The Eyes – If you have a hard time looking someone directly in their eye, try this easy tip! Simply look at the space between their eyebrows. You won’t have the pressure of focusing on their eyes, and they won’t know the difference. It’s a win – win!
5. Keep Them Comfortable – Many times we don’t look in someone’s eyes because we feel uncomfortable and we’re afraid we’ll make them uncomfortable, too. In response, let me ask you this. Think how uncomfortable it is when somebody talks to you without looking at you. Sometimes you’re not even sure if they are speaking to you. It’s incredibly awkward. So fight through your initial discomfort and look your partner in the eye. Whatever discomfort you feel, I guarantee they won’t even notice it – especially relative to if you didn’t even look at them!
To Wrap Up
Networking is very difficult for many people. Having to look multiple strangers in the eyes is one of the trickiest parts.
Fortunately, making eye contact is a skill that can be learned. Try these tips at your next event and experience as people open up to you!
And if you want more networking tips, check out my FREE workbook – Networking Scripts and Tips: Your All-in-one Field Guide to Make Real Connections and Know What to Say!
With that said, keep on looking ahead!
I’ll talk to you next week!