eye contact in a conversation

Your eye contact says a lot of things about you in a conversation.

You’re talking to someone. They keep looking over your shoulder. They’re clearly not listening to you. In fact, you suspect they’re scanning the room to see if there’s anyone more interesting to talk to.

Ouch. How does this make you feel? Not good I suspect. 

Have you ever thought seriously about what your eyes do in a conversation? Can you honestly say that you always maintain good eye contact when you’re talking to someone (even when you’re bored)? Or are you guilty of ‘wandering eye syndrome’?

Here are just some of the perceptions people may have of you if they sense your eyes wandering:

  • You’re nervous
  • You don’t know what you’re talking about
  • You’re not interested in the conversation
  • You don’t like them
  • You lack self-confidence.

As well as the person forming negative perceptions of you, poor eye contact can have an impact on them too. Your wandering eyes can make the person you’re taking to feel awkward, self-conscious, perhaps even worthless.

All this, simply because of your eyes.

Our eyes are the most expressive part of our face. You should use them as much as possible. They have the power to convey emotions too. Emotions such as sincerity, concern, warmth.

Imagine talking to someone wearing sunglasses. It’s very hard to ‘read’ their true feelings. You can’t ‘see’ what they’re thinking.

Getting the balance right is also important. You don’t want to be staring people out!

You’re looking to find just the right amount of eye contact – enough to send the message that you care and you’re interested. Ideally, you engage with your eyes more when you’re listening and slightly less when you’re speaking.

So what should you do if you find your eyes wandering? Here are 3 simple actions that will help:

1. Focus on the present moment

Pay attention to how you’re feeling physically. Bring yourself back to the present moment by counting the number of times the person blinks or studying the colour of the person’s eyes. This will help you re-focus your attention.

2. Make the person think they are the most important person in the room

This is a simple technique. It will not only make you feel good but it will make the other person feel good too.  If you find your mind or eyes wandering, keep telling yourself that the person you are talking to is really ‘special’. Keep eye contact for a few seconds even after you’ve finished your conversation. This will really show that you’ve been paying attention.

3. Consciously use your eyes to show warmth in your emotion

Tense eyes can send the wrong message. Your aim is to project warmth through your eyes. Next time you’re in a conversation, if your eyes feel tense, try to relax them by visualising something you feel good about. This should literally take a second but will make a huge difference to the emotion you’re conveying through your eyes.

I rarely meet people who are naturally good at using eye contact. The majority have to work hard at it to get it right. It’s worth it though because once you’ve cracked it, you’ll see a huge difference in the way people respond to you.

Remember that good eye contact tells the person you’re aware, you care and you’re in control.

I’d love to know how this works for you. Real examples of eye contact making a difference would be great to hear.


Mike McClement is the founder of the website Think Confidence, self-confidence author, and coach. He is passionate about helping people achieve their potential and enjoy life to the full. He writes about all aspects of self-improvement and self-esteem.

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