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Eye contact: Its Role in Interpersonal Communication

Eye contact: Its Role in Interpersonal Communication

Making eye contact during a conversation is one of the best ways to show someone that you care about what they are saying.  Your eyes can also convey a wide range of other information and emotions without you even realizing it.  However, making eye contact isn’t necessarily a skill that comes naturally to everyone, and knowing what the appropriate amount of eye contact is can be challenging.

Using the appropriate amount of eye contact can help you to show interest, attentiveness and concern. In contrast, too much eye contact may be inappropriate and creepy, and a lack of eye contact can seem disinterested, inattentive and rude. There are many ways in which mastering the art of eye contact can help you with non-verbal communication, both in the workplace and out in the world.

Importance of Eye Contact In Communication

There are several reasons why eye contact can play a vital role in effective interpersonal communication.  Understanding how appropriate eye contact can influence communication is very important for self-awareness and personal growth. Here are a few reasons why eye contact can be so important:

  • It shows respect – In the Western culture, eye contact can be a crucial way that individuals show each other respect. This might not be the only way to show respect, but by looking someone in the eye during an interaction, we acknowledge that we regard them as equals in importance.
  • It shows that you are still following the conversation – By locking eyes with someone, it can be a sure-fire indicator that you still understand and are paying attention to what they are saying. By maintaining eye contact and giving regular feedback, you will ensure a successful verbal exchange with others.
  • It helps us bond with one another – There are certain neurons within the human brain that are highly sensitive to facial expressions and eye contact. This means that eye contact can act as a tool for establishing intimacy, empathy, linking emotional states and creating bonds between humans.
  • It helps us to see the true feelings and thoughts of others – Although eye contact can indeed reveal our innermost thoughts to others, the opposite is also true. By making eye contact with someone, we might be able to learn more about them. From someone’s eyes, you might be able to tell shyness, sadness, disgust or even affection.
  • It helps us convey confidence – When we are confident, we have little problem maintaining eye contact, whereas it is more difficult to look others in the eye when we lack self-confidence or when we are nervous. Maintaining eye contact can therefore show assertiveness and help us seem more confident and self-assured, especially within a professional context.

The Messages Our Eyes Convey in Communication

Winking, staring, and rolling your eyes, certain eye movements and behaviours have a generally known meaning. There are, however, other messages that we can convey with our eyes without even knowing it, and not all of them are necessarily positive. Here are some examples of messages that eyes might be giving:

  • Looking to the left – It is said that when a speaker breaks their gaze and looks left, they are trying to recollect information, while looking left and straight signifies an internal self-conversation before continuing the discussion.
  • Looking to the right – This can convey self-doubt or deceit from a speaker. Looking to the right might signify someone tapping into their imagination, whereas looking to the left might indicate that someone is activating their memories.
  • Direct eye contact – When a speaker maintains eye contact, it indicates that they are truthful. Listeners who keep eye contact come forth as attentive and interested.
  • Blinking frequently – This could indicate that the participants in a conversation are either very excited or excessively bored. To evaluate the meaning behind this cue, it might be necessary to analyze other non-verbal signals, such as gestures, posture, tension, etc.
  • Rubbing your eyes – The most common reason someone might be rubbing their eyes is tiredness, but this can also indicate frustration and iritation. Again it is essential to look at other non-verbal cues to analyze the meaning behind this behaviour.

Paying attention to the eye movements and other non-verbal behaviours that you and others might display is the best way to understand the true feelings and intentions of others. Knowing what signals you send with your eyes can also help you develop your interpersonal communication skills, which may benefit you in all aspects of your everyday life.

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