The Meaning of Eye Contact


One of the most powerful body language tools that a human being has is one of the subtlest movements we can make - Eye Contact (since this phrase is used a lot in this post, I have abbreviated "eye contact" to EC). The energy it takes to shift your eyes from one place to another or lock your eyes in place with another person's eye is little to none. It can be effortless or can be as fast as a blink of an eye; yet, it shows a lot about one's character.

Traditionally speaking, EC is more prevalent in western cultures. For example, in America, it is a sign of respect when one makes dirt EC when talking to an superior person such a boss or the president, while in Japan or China, it would be a sign of disrespect if one were to look directly at a superior in the eye such as the emperor or even, in some common cases, an elderly person.

People who have grown up in western cultures have learned to use EC as a sign of being friendly, polite, acknowledging one's presence, while people who eastern cultures are more cautious of how EC is use. Stereotypically and traditionally speaking, you will see more westerners use EC while easterners will tend to shy away from it and not use EC as much.

However, as times are changing fast and the meaning behind EC is now being universalized. EC nowadays, isn't as dependent on the cultural upbringings as it once used to, and more or less, just depends on the type of person they are or the person's personality.

Even though there can cultural differences in EC, EC is one the most basic, fundamental traits of human beings. That is to say that everybody, whether you are from Los Angeles, California to Taipei, Taiwan, understands, to some extent, what EC means on a fundamental level. Here are some examples that I thought of that most people can relate to.

Looking Away from Somebody

This happens to everybody every single day out in public. Two people are within the proximity of 10 feet of each other. One person will look at the other person, until he or she is caught. Then immediately the person who is caught will look away. They might look up, down, or something that's not even there just to escape being looked at again. Then, when the other person looks away, this person who was caught might look back at them.

Even though both people here do not make EC with each other, but both people definitely feel that the other person is looking at them. The presence is there, even though nothing is being said. This is socially acceptable when one is just passing by for a moment or will be gone in a couple of minutes. It's not that bad.

But when stuck in the same room (such as a classroom) where you are in front of a person, then looking back and forth will cause awkward tension. The key to breaking this tension when in this condition is basically starting up a conversation, even if it's about nothing, because it is better than having awkward EC games.

Staring at Someone

When one makes EC and stares at someone, this could be deadly body language. It also really depends on who is in play here. If a man stares at a woman, this might really creep her out. She will most likely feel the need to leave. If a man stares at another man, the man who is being stared at might feel "threatened" and stare back at the first man, resulting in a staring down contest. This usually brings out unwanted tension which might break out into a fight.

Try not to stare at someone because it may come off rude, inappropriate, and even cause friction between you to. However, if you know them pretty well, such as two lovers staring back at each other for fun, then go for it.

Making EC and Smiling

Not a lot of people can pull this off because they are shy or do want to risk the feeling of not being looked back. However EC plus smile shows the sign of a confident person, but most importantly, it sends out a energetic, positive vibe, to the person who receives this on the other end. They will really have no choice but to make EC back and smile back, and if they do, usually you guys will start out on good terms.

Making EC while Talking
Not talking while making EC is weird in my opinion. But making EC while talking shows confidence and a sense of release in tension. Also, while talking to another person, people don't like it when the other person looks away or doesn't look back at them. It sort of a sign of disrespect and sure won't land you a good score at that job interview.

So, while holding EC with a person, talk to them. You also build a more intimate relationship with them ranging anywhere from dating, building a bond between friendships, or involving yourself with people at work.

Here Are Ten Random Tips on EC

1. If you're going to talk to somebody for the first time, be sure to make EC from the start.

2. Looking at a person's eyes, with a dose of friendliness shows a sign of trust and sincerity.

3. Looking a person's eyes means that you're giving them your undivided attention and showing them that you respect them at some level, and if you were talking to them, you would want them same kind of attention and respect back as well.

4. Don't hold EC for too long as it might creep someone out or make them feel uncomfortable. Look away from time to time, even if it's at the nearest wall, to make communication seem more natural.

5. If you're shy and have a hard time holding EC with somebody, a trick to do is to look at their nose or mouth while they are speaking.

6. Showing EC means you are also showing interest in the person, which can build into rapport and form a strong relationship quickly.

7. Don't stare at someone that you don't know if you don't intend to talk to them.

8. You can tell if a person is lying from their EC because it is harder to lie and look at somebody straight in the eyes.

9. You can also distinguish what kind of person they are from their EC - shy, confident, aggressive, cocky?

10. Finally, this is twofold, but if you wish to talk to somebody you don't know, glancing at them first and waiting for them to acknowledge you with their glance will show that you are interested in talking to them. They will feel this and if they are relaxed about it, it would make access to going up to them more comfortable to doing something like saying, "Hi!"



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