Eye contact—what an important skill to develop. A skill that I have apparently forgotten. My husband was with me on some recent interviews. He takes pictures of people, things, and whatever I point at. I take bad pictures so have enlisted him to come along as I interview various people. After a few weeks of following me around, he remarked that I don’t give eye-contact. I humph, crossed my arms, and gave him good eye-contact as he shared his observations.
Charley pointed out that I asked questions while staring at my notebook or looking to the side. My head was often down. I hadn’t done an interview in a few years so I guess my eye-contact skills were rusty. But when he added that I hadn’t been giving eye-contact to people for awhile my eyebrow went into flicker mode. When had this happened? I am not afraid of eye-contact. I like looking at speakers and nodding so they feel at least one person in their audience is paying attention. Why was I avoiding eye-contact?
What a revelation
I did a little self-evaluation and came to some conclusions. I don’t have any scientific or statistical backing, but I’ll stand by my findings. As a receptionist, I spend a lot of time talking to people while filling out their paperwork. This means I am not looking directly at them. My eyes are on the computer screen or on the form in front of me. After 10 years of multi-tasking, I think my eyes no longer look at who I am talking to. Once I analyzed the problem, I made a conscious effort to look at people full in the face at least once and speak to them. I put down my pen or remove my fingers from the keyboard and looked at people. The next interview I did I purposed to stop writing, give eye-contact as I asked a question. I was amazed at how much better the interview went when I did.
So many screens
I wonder if a world full of screens to look at has become a substitute for face time. So much so that we may have forgotten how to look people in the eye. There is the lemming photo of a line of teens texting while waiting in line. Faces glued to their phone screens, no interaction with others in line. Spending hours with our social networks appears to be taking away our ability to interact face to face. Think of how often you are having a conversation with someone who is texting, maybe they try to be discrete by hiding the phone in their lap, but it still causes sparks of irritation to flicker a warning through your eyes to the offender.
Eye-contact makes a difference
As writers and speakers it is imperative that we give eye-contact to everyone we are with. Eye-contact helps interviewers get a sense of the heart of the interviewee. Speakers get a feel for how their audience is receiving what they are sharing by catching the facial responses to their words. And the audience and interviewee feel you have a real interest in them.
Talking and multi-tasking
Has multi-tasking taken its toll on social skills? In the work place are we so accustom to talking while performing other tasks that we don’t feel comfortable carrying on a conversation without our hands and minds engaged in additional activities? That’s a scary thought.
Developing better habits
Now that I am aware that I have fallen into the habit of lazy eye-contact, I am uncomfortably aware of looking at someone’s feet or over their head or the stain on their blouse. So, I am practicing eye-contact every chance I get. It’s amazing the result. Family members actually pay attention to what I’m saying. Catching the eye of one of our dogs brings quicker obedience. It makes my smiles more sincere with those I come in contact with at work. Eye-contact—what a simple but powerful tool.
How is your eye-contact?