I am British, I don’t know the name of the person who lives next door, I don’t like to be touched, I am reserved and polite.
I have been introduced to people on my first day at work, forgotten their name, and been too British to ask again. When I left that job, I still wasn’t sure what their names were.
However, one thing that sets me apart from most of the British is that I’m really good at eye contact.
When someone is speaking I look them in the eye and I listen, when I’m telling someone something important I look them in the eye, when I present I look around the room making eye contact with as many people as possible.
How did I develop this skill? Was I born in to a strange sub-species or communicative Brits? No, I forced myself to look people in the eye because as a journalist and radio presenter I knew that eye contact was one of the most powerful tools I could use.
If someone is listening to you, you want them to keep eye contact; it helps you gage their interest and it shows empathy. Eye contact keeps you talking, it makes you say the things that you may not have said to someone who looks away… it’s great from a journalistic point of view.
It’s also vital when you are talking.
Keeping eye contact that means that you have something worth saying, something that you believe, something that the listener needs to hear.
If you’re presenting eye contact can mean the difference between being presented at and being presented to; use sweeping contact, change the person you’re looking at as you pause or start a new sentence. If you’re posing questions look as many people in the eye as possible to show that it’s not rhetorical. Ask someone to answer directly, if they can’t move on. Invite people in to your world by looking at them.
Practice your eye contact today… just don’t stare at people on busses… that can end badly.