Everyone knows how important it is to make eye contact with the people you’re talking to, but not all eye contact is the same. If you’re doing it right, you’re communicating to your conversation partner that you’re likeable, trustworthy, attentive. If you do it wrong, you could be communicating that you’re intense, aloof, domineering, or disinterested. Here are few simple tips to show you how to get it right.
First, imagine that you’re looking at a persons face. In your mind, draw a triangle from eye to eye, then down to the mouth. We’ll call this zone#1. Now imagine a triangle drawn from eye to eye then up to the center of the forehead. We’ll call this zone #2. Each zone is a possible area to focus your gaze when you’re making eye contact, but each zone will create a radically different impression if you use it.
If you use zone #1 as the focus of your gaze, you will make your conversation partner feel like an equal. You will seem open, approachable, and comfortable. If you use zone #2, you will make your conversation partner seem as if you believe yourself to be above them. Focusing on zone #2 will make you seem aggressive, if not hostile.
Keep in mind that there is no absolute “right” location to focus your gaze. It all depends upon what you’re trying to accomplish. In most cases we want the people we are communicating with to feel comfortable with us. Generally it’s better to be liked than feared. But there may be cases when you’d prefer to come across as authoritative or intimidating. For example, imagine a situation where somebody trying to bully you into taking an action you don’t want to do. Placing your gaze in zone #2 can go a long way to unconsciously signalling to that person that you won’t be pushed around.