Eye contact is vital to communication. Have you ever tried to talk to someone without looking at them? Do you feel any connection? That's why parents often say to their children: Look at me when I talk to you. Without eye contact, communication is almost impossible
If you sell a product or service, you know how important it is to connect with your customers, and then build relationships. Meeting their eyes is a vital first step to making that connection.
7 tips to connecting and building relationships
1. In North America, eye contact is vital to building relationships. Avoiding eye contact usually reflects fear, shame, embarrassment, discomfort or dishonestly. A person who has difficulty making eye contact may be perceived as lacking self-confidence, devious, untrustworthy, or worse. Although the person may actually be shy, and not devious or trustworthy, this is still the perception that people will have of you.
2. Eye contact doesn't necessarily mean staring into someone's pupils. You can look at other parts of the face and still give the impression of making eye contact. Take the pressure off yourself by glancing at the eyelid, the corner of the eye or the bridge of the nose.
3. Aim to maintain eye contact about 60-70% of the time. If you look at their eyes for less that 50% of the time won't maximize its positive impact. A good way to tell if you are making enough eye contact is to make sure you notice the color of their eyes. You don't have to remember the color, just notice it.
4. Be sensitive to individual differences. Some people are uncomfortable meeting your gaze, because of personality or mood. A shy person may feel overwhelmed by what is considered normal by others, and may interpret this as a sign of hostility or aggressiveness. Don't force your gaze on anyone.
5. Avoid sunglasses or tinted glasses indoors. We feel uncomfortable when we can't see someone's eyes, because we don't know where they are looking.
6. In other cultures, direct eye contact can be considered an affront, particularly between men and women. When meeting people from other cultures, be aware that eye contact can be perceived differently. If you feel that someone does not want to make look at your directly for cultural reasons, be sensitive to their feelings and lower your eyes.
7. When you meet someone's eyes, match it with a warm, sincere smile. You'll be sure to make a powerful connection that will result in long-term business relationships.
There are many other aspects of body language that can make the difference in whether you connect or not. Be sure to learn about body language so you send the right signals.
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From Lynda Goldman, business communications consultant and author of 30 books, including How to Make a Million Dollar First Impression.