More eye contact amongst the young
Did we make more eye contact as kids? It seems that kids make more eye contact with everyone — indiscriminate of age, gender, or any other aspect. Even if a child looks away when you return their gaze, they still come back to look again. Guess kids just remain curious about the ones they don’t know. Adults that have a youthful spirit, also do the same; they still make eye contact with strangers. But in many cases, adults making eye contact with people they don’t know? Not so much.
Rude to stare
What’s changed? Was it that we were told that it’s rude to stare? Well, I think by now we know when eye contact is too long. But to get exact, according to a study in the Royal Society Open Science today , the average ideal stare is 3.3 seconds1. before it becomes uncomfortable for the receiver.
Sending the wrong signals
Do we avoid eye contact because we feel that we risk sending erroneous mating cues? I’ve been told to stop making eye contact with men, because sometimes it leads to unwelcoming behaviour, sometimes. So are we supposed to ignore half the population? Miss out on opportunities to make friends, smile, share a moment. Or heaven forbid that we’re reminded that we’re desirable enough for a stranger to risk — a pretty big ego-risk — in complimenting us. Seriously, do we want to prevent a nice spontaneous pick-me up.
Yeah, there’s plenty of room for misinterpretation, as a sign of interest. Believe you me, there’s been many times where the aftermath of making eye contact with the ‘wrong’ person left me regrettably uncomfortable – and felt it’s just not worth it. But those are awesome learning opportunities. And in some cases you can even increase your professional network, or make friends depending how you handle the encounter. Either way, each misinterpreted incident helps you to better identify that potential, and lessen the time in resolving the uncomfortable interaction to your satisfaction (i.e. less guilt, quicker disengagement, move on to other potential positive connections).
But overall, the risk of negative interactions are much less frequent than positive ones. And, you probably have examples where even seemingly negative interactions result in life-long friendships.
Connecting at work
In work settings, the ones that make more eye contact are senior teams. Could this be a trait that helps in career advancement? Many lower-level personnel look away, or walk with their heads down; and no, they’re not all checking emails on their phones. Many just don’t look up. And if eye contact is made, sometimes feels like it’s empty. Not even a nod or acknowledgement. I get that they may be in deep thought and miles away — but are senior teams never thinking? The walks away from your desks and computers are opportunities to increase the potential for new friends. Don’t need to strike up a long conversation, just nod and smile. It’s pleasantly surprising how friendly people can be when you look at them.
Make eye contact. Look at people the way you used to; and if you didn’t start now! And smile J Chances are someone will compliment you on something. If they don’t, maybe you should find something to compliment them on. Make their day…why not?
1) (Binetti, Nicola; Harrison, Charolotte; Coutrot, Antoine; Johnston, Alan; Marescal, Isabelle. ” Pupil dilation as an index of preferred mutual gaze duration.” The Royal Society Publishing. http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org