Performance

Why Eye Contact is Important to your Performance

Eye contact
Written by Jonathan Burston

Sam sat opposite me. He was tall, lean and smartly dressed. My first impressions were good. So that was a tick in the box for him. His CV highlighted his skills, expertise and knowledge for the marketing job I was recruiting for.

I was looking forward to this interview. If he performed as well he looked and described himself, he’d likely get the job.

But…

Unfortunately, the interview didn’t pan out the way I had hoped.

As I asked him questions, he would answer them without looking at me. At first I put it down to nerves, but as the interview went on, it kept happening.

Even when he asked me questions at the end, he didn’t look at me when I was responding.

I thought, ‘this is odd’. I felt rather uncomfortable.

I quickly decided that Sam wasn’t who I hoped he would be. He most certainly wasn’t going to be joining us.

Why?

Because he didn’t make eye contact with me once during the interview. And that made me feel uncomfortable. It didn’t feel right.

Eye contact is an extremely important non verbal communication. It’s important to get it right.  Too little or too much can give off signs that make the receiver feel uncomfortable.

My First Sales Lesson

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was:

‘You have two ears and one mouth, so use them in those proportions.’

In other words listen at least twice as much as you speak.

Why then if we listen with our ears are our eyes that important? Well, for starters it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who avoids eye contact with you.

Lack of Eye Contact

Numerous studies have found that those don’t use eye contact tend to be:

  • Hiding deceit
  • Masking emotions
  • Insecurity
  • Unprepared
  • Less believable
  • Less confident
  • Fearing rejection

Is that how you want to come across in your interviews? Absolutely not!

The Importance of Eye Contact

So what have studies found for those people who maintain eye contact. Well, they are usually perceived to be more:

  • Reliable
  • Warm
  • Sociable
  • Honest
  • Confident
  • Personable
  • Attractive
  • Likeable
  • Qualified
  • Skilled
  • Competent
  • Valuable
  • Sincere
  • Emotionally stable

Amazing how one simple body language technique can help you so dramatically.

Additional Benefits of Eye Contact

There are some important additional benefits to maintaining eye contact.

1. Respect – eye contact demonstrates respect for the person talking.

2. Interest – it demonstrates interest in what someone is saying. Looking away comes across as aloof.

3. Appreciation and Understanding – you can easily and quickly convey appreciation and understanding with your eyes – without having to say anything.

4. Connection – eye contact generates a powerful subconscious sense of connection between two people.

5. Concentrate – maintaining eye contact helps you concentrate on the conversation (active listening). It helps your mind from wandering.

6. Belief – it demonstrates a believe in what you’re saying.

7. Sustained Eye Contact – can make you feel more assertive.

8. Stature – by looking in someone’s eyes for 3-5 seconds, your speech will naturally slow down and you will sound more presidential.

You don’t just have to use this in interviews. You can and should use it in everyday life too. And that’s the perfect place to trial, test and hone your skill. That way eye contact in your next interview will come very naturally.

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About the author

Jonathan Burston

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