Something quite different happened today. On my way back home, I decided to get fresh pepper from the grocery store because I had run out of it. On arriving the grocery store, one of the store workers walked up to me and spoke to me about a new competition happening soon possibly because the year is coming to an end. He needed a piece of ID and my points card, and in the process of scanning these documents we got talking. Our communication ended really well and in fact, a promising offer came out of our conversation. The whole scenario reminded me of the past. A few months ago, the story might have differed.
Many of us must have heard of how important eye contact can be especially with regards to getting a job and even afterward. I discovered the importance of eye contact when I started going for interviews, increased my social gatherings, changed my location, met new people, and so on.
Growing up I wasn’t shy, somewhere along the line I became unnecessarily shy and maybe timid; but with time I was able to overcome that challenge. I noticed a setback when I relocated to Canada. I wasn’t maintaining good eye contact when speaking to strangers, maybe because I was in a different location and felt I sounded differently. I could sense it and something had to be done urgently.
I’ve been fortunate to take a few cross-cultural communication classes and since realized that cultures differ from place to place. While it may be proper to look into the eyes of someone you are speaking to, it may not be so in another country. For example, in Western cultures eye contact is expected,in many Middle Eastern cultures eye contact is not common. For most African cultures eye contact is subtle (should be done in moderation).
I am of the opinion that eye contact is of importance in the workplace, during interviews, and in general conversations. People may find it difficult to maintain good eye contact for several reasons. If you struggle with making good eye contact, here are tips that worked for me, maybe it would for you.
- Be certain
You can’t deal with this issue except you are certain that you need to work on it. Be aware. The first step to getting better is realizing that you need help. There is really no shame in self-improvement. Once you make a decision to develop yourself in this area then every other thing will flow smoothly.
You need to know where the issue is. Is the problem too much eye contact which may seem aggressive to the person you are communicating with or too little eye contact? Too little eye contact shows no interest in the communication or lack of confidence.
2. Regularly talk to someone
Since you now know that you need to improve your eye contact skills, have someone that you can talk to regularly. I believe you should practice with someone you are comfortable with, who can tell you areas that need adjustments. I had to keep talking to someone and practicing so that when I go out I feel like I am still talking to the person. With time it will get better, and you will feel much more relaxed speaking to a stranger or speaking in public.
An interviewer at a major interview once commended me for “great eye contact”; if only she knew the work I had to put in to improve on that aspect *ha ha*. You can find out some good questions to ask at an interview here (if you have an interview soon).
3. Try to relax
When having a conversation or at an interview, you may begin to feel uneasy. Sometimes the eye contact from the other person may feel intimidating. Breathe. Relax. Look away for a second or two and resume eye contact. You don’t want to keep staring at a person, that may seem rude or offensive. You can look away while applying other gestures like; a nod or a smile and resume back to your initial position.
Just remember that whoever you are communicating with won’t eat you up! *lol* That seems to help so much, what do you think? Agree?
4. Quick exercises
If you find that you are terribly uncomfortable, remind yourself of the need to maintain confidence while communicating. Squeeze your fists for about two seconds and release, then place your palms just above your thighs if you are sitting. Also, if you are standing, you may want to slightly lift your chin. If you have to sit, sit up straight. This helps build confidence.
Please note that whatever you are trying to do to remain calm should be done in moderation. Try as much as possible to prevent the other person from noticing your relaxation techniques at that point. This may appear like so much work but if you put your mind to it, you may just end up doing it in reflex.
5. Fix your gaze
A preferable way to improve eye contact is to start gazing at one eye of the other person. If you are still uncomfortable, shift your gaze to other parts above the nose region of the person you are communicating with. You can settle on the eyebrow or nose. Try not to focus so much attention on the forehead else you would have failed to appear to maintain eye contact.
From time to time, you can find a spot just behind the other person where you can fix your gaze at intervals (if you start to feel nervous). You have to “fake” proper eye contact until you make it.
6. Keep practicing
The more you try to maintain good eye contact, the better you will become. Even among your peers, in a spontaneous conversation, practice on improving your eye contact skills. You never know when it will come in useful.
What do you think? Are these tips useful and do you have other suggestions? If you have mastered the art of eye contact how does it work for you? There is so much love in sharing so please feel free to share in the comment section below.
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Have a beautiful week ahead.