Advice for Students

Eye Contact: How to Present Yourself with Confidence and Authority

May 05, 2015  |     |   0 Comment

Eye Contact HandshakeEye contact, when used properly, can enhance your professional presence. Direct eye contact is vital in the business arena if you are to present yourself with confidence and authority.  It tells the person with whom you are speaking that you are listening to them – and it actually makes you a better listener.

When speaking with a person in a business situation, direct eye contact will help you to focus your attention wholly and completely on that individual.  By doing so, you will make the person with whom you are speaking feel important, valued, respect and heard – while you look in control.  A definite plus in the business world.

The rule-of-thumb when it comes to making direct eye contact is that it should be made 40 to 60 percent of the time during a conversation. Anything less than 40% and you may run the risk of being perceived as shy, shifty, hiding something or lacking self-confidence. If, on the other hand, direct eye contact is made more than 60% of the time during a conversation, a person may feel put on the spot, examined, or under a microscope.

During a conversation, your eyes should support your words. Use smiles and frowns. Both give your face expression. Smile when it is appropriate to what you are saying. An occasional frown makes you look concerned and adds weight to your words.

In addition to eye contact, it is important to understand the signals you are sending with your eyes, and equally important to be aware of the eye signals of others.  Researchers from The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City found that most people focus on the lower part of the face – the nose, lips and cheeks – during a conversation, even though true feelings are expressed primarily in the upper face, through the eyes, brows and forehead.

During business discussions, for example, visualize a triangle on the other person’s forehead that begins at the bridge of the nose and eyes.  Your “gaze” should be directed in this area at all times.  This creates a serious atmosphere and the other person senses that you are respectful and mean business.  By focusing your “gaze” in this area, you are able to maintain control of the interactions.

A “gaze” below the other person’s eye level indicates that a social atmosphere is developing.  The “gazer” will also look at the area between the eyes and the mouth.  This is definitely not professional.  In intimate encounters, one’s gaze will focus on eyes and other parts of the person’s body.  These glances are never appropriate in business situations.

So, the formula for success when it comes to eye contact in business situations is simply this:  eye’s up; apply the 40%-60% direct eye contact rule; make sure your eyes support your words; and learn to truly listen. By doing so, you will enhance your professional presence; present yourself with confidence and authority; make the person with whom you are conversing feel important, valued, respected and heard; and leave a positive and lasting impression that provides an opportunity to continue to build a rapport and relationship with others.

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