Most of our recent blog posts have been focused primarily on applications of Intelligent Communication below the line “thinking” skills. While I believe that the below the line skills are those most often neglected in communication, we don’t want to make the similar error of neglecting above the line “doing” skills. In this blog we’ll take a look at one such skill: eye contact.
As noted in a recent post on PsyBlog, eye contact can be a very significant aspect of interpersonal communication, but its significance is also often misunderstood. For example, there is abundant research that indicates that making eye contact can make us more persuasive. The commonly held perception that liars avoid eye contact, however, is not necessarily true based on similar research. This latter idea has become so widely believed, many liars deliberately try to maintain eye contact as part of their deception.
Normal eye contact ranges between 30% to 60% of the time. There are many factors than impact where in that range our eye contact should be. Considering these factors and determining the appropriate amount of eye contact is where the other aspects of Intelligent Communication come to play. For example, different cultures have different perspectives on eye contact. Many Eastern cultures consider eye contact avoidance a sign of respect, where most Western cultures may view the same behavior negatively. Intelligent Communicators consider culture as part of the pre-communication step of the line component of the model.
Selecting the appropriate amount of eye contact throughout a conversation can be an important factor in our effectiveness as a communicator. Too little eye contact may be perceived as a lack of interest and too much can be viewed as overly aggressive. This is where the below the line thinking component of Intelligent Communication can help. Working through the deliberate thinking steps associated with the below the line component can help us accurately interpret others’ verbal and non-verbal communication and help us answer this important question.
When talking we tend to maintain less eye contact than when listening. This is an important reminder. It is very important to increase eye contact while listening, as the eyes will pick up important non-verbal communication clues. While percentages vary as to the amount, we can confidently say that non-verbal communication represents a significant amount of the communication we all transmit. As we noted above, identifying these non-verbal clues is vital if we are going to accurately assess how much eye contact is appropriate for our purposes.
One can readily see in this consideration of eye contact and communication how the three components of the Intelligent Communication approach work together to make us more effective communicators. If you are interested in learning more about the Intelligent Communication approach, we offer a number of ways you can do that. Best yet, they are all free. We have two on-demand online courses available to introduce or provide an overview of the approach. Additionally, we will be presenting a free webinar, Introduction to Intelligent Communication, on Wednesday, 4 September, at 2:00 PM. You can register for that webinar here. You can find information about additional webinars on our training calendar.
Using eye contact properly in communication is important to becoming a more effective communicator. In order to apply Intelligent Communication skills in this way, you must remember to be swift to hear (and see), and slow to speak.