The Life-Changing Effects of Eye Contact

As much as we like to believe first impressions don’t matter, it is hard to ignore that our perceptions of people begin to form at first glance. Thankfully, knowing the power of eye contact can shift the scales of social success in your favor. From receiving positive reactions from strangers to nailing a job interview, your gaze can say a lot about you without saying a word.

As Tyra Banks would say: “smize!” Smiling with your eyes has the potential to look creepy at first, but with a few practice selfies, the smize can make you more approachable and inviting. This is one way to fend off resting b***h face (RBF). Instead of explaining that you don’t mean to look angry, start off on the right foot by softening your facial features, especially around your eyes. Perceiving a person’s gaze as friendly disarms the other party, causing them to respond altruistically. Even simple tasks, like checking out at a grocery store, become more pleasant.

Eye contact can also show intent. By looking someone in the eye, they feel involved in what you are doing or saying. Studies have shown students retain information better when professors make eye contact. In conversations, looking directly at someone emphasizes a point, demonstrates authenticity and you become more memorable because a person feels engaged in the conversation. With eye contact, you validate someone by listening and watching them as they speak, after all everyone wants to be noticed

In interviews, steady eye contact often results in a positive performance review. Candidates can increase their chances of getting hired within the first four minutes of an interview by using eye contact to convey confidence, enthusiasm and friendliness. In a study called “Eye contact and the perception of intelligence”, which was published on the Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, found that “interviewees exhibiting longer durations of eye contact and fewer eye shifts were more likely to be rated as having a higher GPA than individuals who generally avoided eye contact and frequently averted their eyes during the interview.”

We are not suggesting you stare someone down to get their attention or respect, but a kind gaze lasting three to five seconds is an acceptable amount of eye contact with a stranger. Of course, as you become closer with someone the three second rule doesn't have to apply. Assessing the situation is important to be engaging with your gaze, but not overpowering.

Personally, I have seen a positive change in my relationships by using eye contact to advance social skills. I used to be a shy person, afraid of confrontation and especially eye contact. I realized I was unhappy with my introversion. I saw others who flowed easily into relationships and different social circles, which is when I started increasing my eye contact to connect with others. I saw results almost immediately. I now have more meaningful conversations and even my professors noted my increased participation in class especially after I make a point to look at them during my response. Overall, I feel more confident to try new things because I feel more comfortable meeting new people.

How we look at one another is such an involuntary reaction that it takes time to train yourself not to look away immediately or resort to a blank stare. Eye contact can open up so many doors, and before you know it you’ll be commanding the room with just a glance.