They say that eyes are the messengers of our soul.
We 'see eye-to-eye' with some and 'turn a blind eye' to others.
Eye contact is the most powerful non-verbal message you can send to another person. Many human beings struggle with eye contact due to the fact that maintaining it can be very revealing. It can often feel like someone is staring directly into your mind and you into theirs. When someone looks into the two hollow openings of your skull, there is no room to hide and no way to disguise your emotions.
The rules about when and how to make appropriate eye contact are complicated and rarely taught in a precise manner. If you don't display enough eye contact people may think you are hiding something. If you show too much eye contact people may think you are creepy.
So how do we find a subtle balance?
There is a natural rhythm of looking at someone and then directing your pupils elsewhere. When it feels right, perhaps you can hold your gaze a little longer, relishing a simple moment of human connection.
Quantified Impressions - A communications analytics company in Austin, Texas - state that adults make eye contact between 30%-60% of the time in an average conversation. After analysing the communication of 3000 people, they believe there should be strong eye contact for at least 60-70% of the time to create a sense of true emotional connection. Essentially their research suggests that we don't look at each other enough.
I recently wrote about how it's becoming rare these days to catch a gaze from others due to the strong focus on our electronically curated self. The thing is, people have struggled with eye contact for decades.
Interestingly, in sexual encounters, studies have shown that partners don't look into each others eyes nearly enough, which could be tarnishing their experience.
Shy people struggle the most with eye contact. Some anthropophobia sufferers find it so daunting that they simply can't look at people at all.
Curious to know how others felt about eye contact, I put the question to a couple of my friends around the world.
Clare from Sydney says:
"I've noticed that I can only maintain consistent eye contact if I'm completely relaxed or if I'm having an argument with someone. In any other scenario, I end up having self-conscious thoughts about what the other person may be thinking, so my eyes will wander quite a lot".
Shari from Brooklyn says:
"I actually prefer eye contact - the eyes don't lie. I think a long unnecessary gaze would definitely make me a bit uncomfortable, but in real life when I am having a conversation with someone, or especially in dating and relationships, I think when a person looks you in the eyes - you know they are speaking the truth".
Meagan from Singapore says:
"Eye contact is important because it shows a person is engaged in a conversation. Staring is not cool though! If I like someone, I find it a little harder to look them in the eye for prolonged periods. I guess each situation is different".
Ben from Toronto says:
"For me, I'm ok with giving eye contact, but feel a little weird receiving it. I don't know...I can't help feeling scrutinised if I'm being looked at for a lengthy period. Sometimes I wonder if the other person will see my flaws?"
Even in that small sample from some of my friends, there are some varying responses.
At the end of the day those of us blessed with sight, should make the most of it whenever possible - especially in our interaction with others.