Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

Eye contact: The secret to your success is in your eyes

Eye contact: The secret to your success is in your eyes
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Your eyes don’t lie. So if they drift down to that text message while your algebra teacher is explaining why you got a C- on yesterday’s quiz? They’re saying: I don’t care

Or if your eyes stare at someone on the other side of the room? Without blinking? For ten minutes?

They’re saying: I’m creepy.Eye contact rule #1: Don't just stare, talk with your eyes.

And you haven’t said a word. According to UCLA researchers, more than half the information you convey in a conversation comes from “non-verbal communication.” Like eye contact. So when you master the art of eye contact, you’re taking control of how your peers, your teachers, even coaches and college admissions officers, see you.

It’s true. Eye contact may be just as important as a good SAT score or killer extracurriculars—if you want to win at everything from social situations to your future. That’s why we’ve scoured the web to come up with five eye contact hacks that will help you do just that.

Dos and don’ts: The essentials of eye control

Here are the basics. Not rules, exactly. Guidelines.

DO:

Talk with your eyes. In other words, always appear genuinely interested in what someone has to say. Even if you couldn’t care less.

Yes, fake it if you have to. Just don’t let your eyes look bored. Ever.

Eye contact rule #2: Don't too carried away with "talking with your eyes." Keep it real.

WHY: Everybody wants to feel worthy of respect. Eye contact that shows interest conveys respect—and respect gets you cred with whomever you’re talking to. Adults, kids, it doesn’t matter. Show respect, get respect. Thanks to eye contact, a virtuous cycle is born.

DON’T:

Try not to get carried away with talking with your eyes. Keep it real.

WHY: You don’t want to look like you’re putting on an act, even if you are.

Here’s a good eye contact guideline: Imagine you’re the person you’re talking to. What kind of response would you expect?

There’s a word for that: Empathy. Let your eyes express your understanding of and appreciation for the value that someone else is bringing to this world.

DO:

Listen with your eyes. Our brains are actually wired to pick up on non-verbal cues that convey the not-so-hidden meaning behind someone’s words. But you have to pay attention.

WHY: So you know the right response—for any person, and in any situation.

Consider your (hypothetical) algebra teacher. Is he giving off an impatient vibe? Or does he seem understanding?

Listening with your eyes means watching for cues that tell you how to respond to someone, both in words, and in your own non-verbal communication. Deciphering the appropriate response is easier than you think: You’re hardwired to know, after all. But only if you’re listening with your eyes.

A big shiny eyeball has just flattened what appears to be the wicked witch of the west

If looks could kill...

DON’T:

Never stare. You’re not the only one who’s programmed to respond to non-verbal communication.

WHY: It’s not just that it’s creepy. It’s that you don’t want to send the wrong message.

Find a dog you don’t know. (And make sure the dog is behind a very strong chain link fence). Now stare into the dog’s eyes. Odds are, Fido’s going to find you threatening and respond accordingly.

Same with people. They won’t lunge at you and try to rip out your carotid artery, but they will be on alert. They may think your stare means that you don’t believe them, or that you think they’re ridiculous. Whatever they think, it probably won’t be what you want them to think. (Unless you’re trying to be weird.)

The people you’re talking to are (or should be) looking for non-verbal cues from you. Make sure that your eyes are talking even as your eyes are listening.

DO:

When you’re talking to a group, find a way to make sure your eyes engage with everyone in the group.

WHY: Direct gazes impel people to pay attention to what you’re saying, probably because eye contact makes them feel included. A recent study showed that people remembered 30 percent more of the facts conveyed in a talk where the speaker looked up at them than they did when the speaker read from a prepared text.

In other words, if you want the information you’re presenting on any topic—including the topic of you—to be memorable, find a way to make consistent eye contact part of the mix.

a chimpanzee, grinning maniacally

An example of excellent eye contact.

In case you still need convincing...

Monkeys don’t have BFFs, but they can judge a friend from a foe. Scientists at the University of Birmingham recently discovered cells in the brains of Rhesus monkeys that trigger when the monkeys look at someone who looks back at them. These “eye cell” neurons (which are found in the amygdala—the region of the brain in charge of emotions and social awareness) help the monkeys make use of eye contact—as a way to separate the good guys, er, monkeys, from the bad.

Researchers think that human brains are built the same way. In other words, they think that our brains are specifically designed to help us figure out what kind of person someone is simply by looking into their eyes. That’s a powerful biological justification for learning just how—and when—to make eye contact with whomever you might encounter, anywhere.


We want to know your eye contact secrets. Share them here!


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