“The simple act of holding someone’s gaze … has the power to ignite or deepen a relationship.”
I’ve had my heart stolen by a man I barely knew – we had spent no more than three hours over six months talking about impersonal things – and yet, when I said goodbye that day and was walking out the door, I turned to see him gazing at me. That look was so intense, his eyes locked on mine like he wanted to kiss me, that I wanted to forget about leaving and just go back and throw my arms around him although we were near strangers.
Eye contact is captivating.
This contact is what humanizes and strengthens connections. I was once mesmerized by the incessant gaze of a seagull as it watched me watch it. I moved around in the room; the seagull paced back and forth outside on the window ledge, its eyes never leaving mine. By the time it flew away, the moment we shared was unforgettable.
It doesn’t matter whose eyes are engaging ours, whether human or animal, alive or pictorial. The contact is a way of sending a message. Researchers at Cornell University did a study on the significance of eye contact using the Trix cartoon rabbit by changing the gaze of the rabbit shown on different cereal boxes. The box that a panel of adults chose most frequently was the one with the rabbit looking directly at them, instead of away.
Eye contact makes you memorable.
The body language of the eyes can be powerful enough to make a person fall in love. A gaze can stop a person from walking out the door. Eye contact can make a moment unforgettable.
We’ve heard the saying, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” People are more likely to believe someone is being honest when eye contact is made. We think that when we look into someone’s eyes, we can peer into their true intentions. For this reason, holding eye contact during a conversation or a presentation makes your words more memorable. The next time you are giving an important talk, hold someone’s gaze, then look away, or make a sudden hand gesture. Your words at that moment will become more solidified in that person’s mind.
Eye contact can reveal the truth.
When we hold someone’s gaze, we feel that we can prevent them from deceiving us if they seem a bit shady in character. The truth, however, is that liars are better at holding eye contact than those who tell the truth, perhaps because they are aware that we think a gaze will reveal a person’s true intentions. In fact, we are better able to interpret a person’s intentions from their body language than we think.
A study on a person’s ability to read body language from the expression in their eyes only (the rest of the face was covered), revealed that men could interpret the mental state of the person 76% of the time, while women could guess the state 88% of the time. But it’s not known how we are able to deduce our conclusions from eye contact.
Eyes need to roam to gather information.
Most of us aren’t aware that we also get our information at a subconscious level. When we see someone new from a distance, our eyes go to the face, then the body, and then back to the face. The exchange of glances helps us assess how interesting we think the other person may be. The glimpse of the body tells us the sex of the person we are approaching.
Women are able to gather this information more discretely close up because of their peripheral vision. Men have tunnel vision, so it is more noticeable when they are trying to check out someone from head to toe from close up.
After a meeting, we also check out the rear view of the person as they leave. In a study of job interviews, researchers found that both men and women checked out the physical details of job interview candidates as they entered the room and when they left. Women tended to be more judgmental of the candidates’ clothes and overall appearance. Both sexes needed to give the candidates a complete once-over at the start of the interview. This is a fact to keep in mind if candidates are trying to maintain eye contact the moment they enter the room – it makes the checking out process difficult for the interviewer.
Eyes send a clear message.
Whether or not you are thinking about the message your eyes are sending out, you should be aware that you are always transmitting something. When you hold eye contact, you are showing interest. If you are checking someone out, even subconsciously, you could be creating an awkward situation, especially if the other person is politely trying to hold a gaze. Your emotions are spelled out in your eyes, and people can read your message with over 75% accuracy. Eyes are indeed the windows into your innermost thoughts. So, hold eye contact, be confident, and be memorable!