When building business relationships, never underestimate the power of eye contact.
Trustworthiness, professionalism, authority and a caring nature are all important business qualities that can be conveyed through the eyes. When properly used, it enhances every aspect of your interpersonal relationships. Without it, it’s easy to send the wrong message and fail to form a strong connection. Appropriate eye contact is the foundation for establishing a reputation as a sincere, confident leader.
The following tips will make sure this critical part of how you present yourself is working in your favor.
Be intentional. Imagine a colleague who glances everywhere but your face during a discussion. They are inadvertently letting you know they are distracted, don’t find what you have to say important or are disinterested. Looking directly at the person as you address them demonstrates you are tuned into their reactions.
Signal sincerity. The expressions, “looking someone in the eye” and “seeing eye to eye” are meant to communicate trust. During a business exchange, it says that you are being upfront and inspires listeners to be more receptive. When your eyes jump around the room or your attention is elsewhere, you are limiting your reach.
Stay focused. If you are nervously scanning the room, you are making it difficult for others to concentrate on your message. Allow your eyes to land on participants for several seconds. An intense glare is as detrimental as avoiding eye contact altogether. Three to five seconds is an appropriate amount of time before breaking away. Letting your gaze linger several seconds too long can be perceived as confrontational, forward or just plain weird.
Review other speakers. Watch videos of speeches, media interviews or group discussions and study the visual connections among participants. Notice who naturally seems to draw others in, who holds the most power and who comes across as unappealing or untrustworthy. Put what you observe into practice with friends and family until it becomes second nature.
Observe nonverbal feedback. Be aware of audience members fidgeting or checking their smartphones. It may be a sign you need to adjust your pace. Fine-tune your words and delivery based on the buy-in you identify. Speed up your message, change directions or slow down, depending on their visual cues.
It’s hard to succeed in the business world without mastering this simple, yet powerful tool. Take the time to make sure you are using appropriate eye contact to your advantage.
You may also find Business Etiquette: Making a Strong Introduction helpful. For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, subscribe to her articles on Huffington Post, “like’” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook and follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.