The Power Of Eye Contact
I was never much of a social kid growing up. I have always had great friends but struggled with meeting new people. At parties I never knew what I was supposed to do; often times I would sit alone on a couch. Even at parties where I knew everyone I would still get overwhelmed and keep to myself.
I realized this was something about myself that I wanted to change so I started reading books and studies on social interaction and communication. It’s become a huge hobby of mine (recently re-ignited when my brother introduced me to micro expression training) and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about it. So when I came across this guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog talking about President Clinton’s powers of persuasion and powerful presence created by his eyes I was immediately interested. Here’s a quote from the post and Michael Ellsberg’s book on the topic of eye contact:
Anderson (Special Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files) spoke on Late Night With David Letterman of an encounter she had with Clinton several years earlier: “We all, mostly women, lined up. And when he gets to you, he takes your hand and makes eye contact. After he leaves and he moves on to the next person, he looks back at you and seals the deal. When I got home, I expected to have a message from him, and I didn’t. I bet women across America expect it too.”
The effect mentioned above is called a Reality Distortion Field. If you’ve ever had the experience of being the only two people in a crowded room during a conversation, you know what it is. That fact that he was able to create this by his presence alone was something I wanted to learn how to do.
Benefits Of Learning Good Eye Contact
Powerful presence isn’t the only great thing about developing good eye contact skills. There are a lot of benefits. In personal and professional relationships making good eye contact not only lets someone know they have your full attention but also portrays confidence. Good salesmen use eye contact to build rapport and con-men use it to appear trustworthy while they rob people blind. Romantic attraction also has a lot to do with finding a deep connection in someone else’s eyes; If you are uncomfortable and look away you might miss an opportunity to meet someone extraordinary. Making eye contact with people in public also helps you feel more connected to the world around you. I experienced that yesterday while I spent the day in New York City.
Hone Your Skills
Becoming skilled at eye contact is a matter of practice. The more you try it and experiment with it the better you’ll get. Locking eyes with someone else does have a certain intensity to it and you may need to work through any fear or uncomfortable feelings that come up. Here are some tips that might help.
- Start by practicing with a close friend or family member. Start off easy and set a stopwatch for only 30 seconds. During that time you are to focus on looking into eachother’s eyes and just notice any thoughts or feelings that come up. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable or tense (laugh a little if you have to). Take a break and then reset the stopwatch for 1 minute and try again. Increase the duration and repeat as many times a necessary until you feel comfortable.
- Make direct eye contact by any waiters, bartenders, store clerks, and cashiers you meet. These people are there to help you and may even be grateful for a sincere connection.
- I have gotten myself in the habit of making eye contact every time I greet someone, especially if it’s a new person. When my arm goes out for a handshake my eyes look right into the other persons. It makes a great first impression and will help you feel more comfortable. Don’t break the eye contact until you transition into normal conversation.
- Get your eyes away from your feet and out of the sky. Try to make eye contact with anyone you pass when out in public. You’ll be surprised at how many other people manage to avert their gaze from you. On occasion you will find someone else who is awake in the moment and make a small connection.
When you start feeling comfortable with that you can move onto some more advanced techniques.
- Try communicating with just your eyes. Can you get someones attention with just your gaze? Can you flag down your waiter? A cute girl/guy at the bar?
- Play around and experiment again. What happens when you make too much eye contact? Or too little? Try positioning your body or changing the distance with someone during a conversation. See how it effects how connected you feel. Can you say specific things with your eye or read the ‘thoughts’ of others? Who’s eyes are comfortable to looking into and who’s aren’t. Why?
- If you get the opportunity to find an Eye Gazing Party go an attend for some awesome practice. It’s like speed dating but without asking any questions. You just have a few minutes to looking into someone’s eyes before moving on to the next person. I have not been able to find one in the New York City/Long Island area but if you hear of one let me know!
30-Day Experiment #1: February 1st – March 2nd
For the next 30 days I will be working on my eye contact skills as much as possible. I have some specific missions laid out that I will be talking about on twitter so make sure you follow @iamhaen for those updates. My direction is to work towards creating my own Reality Distortion Field and all around becoming comfortable with looking into peoples eyes. Overall I hope to be able to convey an aura of confidence and increase the amount of intimate and meaningful conversations.
If you would like to participate you will get the most out of this experiment by working on it every day. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time just make a conscious decision to increase your eye contact and notice what happens. Try some of the techniques listed above and let me know how they go. I really want to know what you experience come let me know in the comments on twitter or through e-mail. I would love to feature some experiences you guys have at the end of the experiment. Please share this post with anyone else who you think may be interested as well.
This experiment may not be for you. If you don’t want to participate no worries. Next week we go back to our regularly scheduled program. It’ll feature a somewhat embarrassing story and explain why failure is pretty cool and can help you to get rid of fear. Make sure you don’t miss it by signing up for the e-mail newsletter below. Feel free to share this as well if you think your friends may be interested, I really appreciate it.
- How It Works: Clinton’s “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma by Tim Ferriss
- The Power Of Eye Contact by Michael Ellsberg (Also check out the site The Power Of Eye Contact)