The Message That the Lack of Eye Contact Conveys

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The Message That the Lack of Eye Contact Conveys

Eye contact between people shows positive socialization but excess eye contact can be disturbing for some people. / Photo by: atic12 via 123rf


Eye contact is one of the important non-verbal cues to take note of in communication. As early as two days old, infants have been shown to want to look back at faces that are gazing at them than those that did not. According to the British Psychological Society, in adults, eye contact causes an individual to have a heightened state of self-consciousness. Additionally, it has been discovered that eye contact can hinder other mental tasks, like visual imagination.

The presence of eye contact between or among people has been proven by many studies to be positive in socialization. However, an excess of eye contact with great intensity may be disturbing for most people. The ideal duration of eye contact for people as shown in one study was only three seconds. If a person continues to have eye contact with someone with great intensity, that person may be a psychopath.

Knowing when to break off eye contact is a characteristic of most adults. It was shown that some children will keep gazing at an adult although they have been posed with a difficult question. Children should be taught when to properly turn away their gaze. Conversely, extreme lack of eye contact is shown to have negative effects and form negative impressions.


What Is Eye Contact?

The Collins English Dictionary defines it as “a direct look between people” and the “meeting of eyes.” Exploring Your Mind expounds that the interpretation and the interaction between these eyes, when locked on each other, is strongly linked to the region of the brain known as the amygdala. This part of the brain is connected to a person’s emotions.

The complete absence of eye contact reveals being unable to control one’s own feelings. This may cause people to think that an individual is untrustworthy or they may feel uncomfortable in the presence of the person. In contrast, when someone has fixed eye contact and does not turn away their gaze even for a moment, this reveals that they want to control or dominate the other person.


Doing eye contact with someone is strongly linked to the region of the brain known as the amygdala. / Photo by: Antonio Diaz via 123rf


How do People Interpret Lack of Eye Contact?

In accordance with the findings of, here are ways people would interpret a person’s inability to maintain eye-contact:

1. A person thinks they are more superior than others

Normally, looking downwards is a sign that someone is submitting or showing respect to the one they are in a conversation with. However, not making any effort to lock eyes with another person while they are talking may signify that they do not think that that person is of any importance. It also implies that they are in control of whether they see someone or something as important.

In order to avoid giving off an air of superiority, people are advised to sit beside the person they want to converse with, instead of in front of them. It is also suggested that they employ inclusive language. For example, they may try to use words such as “us”, “we” or “our”. They may also ask the person to tell them more about a certain topic. They are also told to give a summary of the core ideas in the conversation so that the person they are talking to knows that they are listening.

2. Someone has a neurotic, socially anxious and introverted personality

Being able to maintain eye contact for an appropriate duration of time can show that a person is actively involved in communicating. On the other hand, when an individual keeps breaking off eye contact, this may reveal that they no longer want to be part of the conversation and that they want to distance themselves. This desire to distance themselves may stem from trying to shield themselves from shame, anticipated embarrassment or negative feelings that could be the result of socializing.

To be able to counter this, individuals are advised to ask plenty of open-ended questions. They are also advised to compliment the person they are speaking to convey that they are positive and observant. Another recommendation is to plan conversation starters ahead of time to prevent them from having awkward pauses in their conversation. It is also advised that they keep their chin up as opposed to lowering the chin. Keeping the chin up shows confidence while lowering the chin shows that they are submissive and self-protective.



3. An individual is not prepared or has not arranged their thoughts yet

People often avert their gaze when they are thinking, hesitating or talking in a non-fluent manner. This may be done because they want to keep themselves from being judged or embarrassed for not being able to continue what they were supposed to say, or so that they can concentrate on the visual input they are receiving from their partner without any distractions.

As a way to fix this, they may try to talk a little slower so that their brain may be able to absorb what will follow in the conversation. They may also directly tell their conversational partner that they require some time to think before answering them. People are also encouraged to talk in more concrete terms rather than abstract terms. A research shows that hard science professors take more time to respond than professors who specialized in humanities. It was deduced from the study that hard science professors could only discuss their topics in more limited ways than humanities professors.


Other Ways One Can Improve Their Eye Contact With Others

Besides trying the suggested ways to reduce the breaking of eye contact or awkwardness that comes from engaging in it, they may also try practicing holding their gaze by looking at themselves in the mirror for more than three seconds. They may also use video apps as aids to help them maintain longer eye contact.


To improve eye contact with others. a person can try practicing by holding their gaze by looking in the mirror for more than three seconds. / Photo by: PaylessImages via 123rf




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