Most of us are taught that when we want to be convincing in interviews or social situations, making eye contact is important — and it is to a point. New research points to the idea that too much eye contact actually comes off overly aggressive or dominant, and serves to detract from your point, not emphasise it.
Photo by Empty Words.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, studied students who watched videos on controversial topics to see where their gaze set. Over two small studies with different groups and conditions, the researchers found that the students who held eye contact were less likely to change their opinions on a topic than students who looked elsewhere, like the speaker’s mouth. Bottom line: Don’t assume that strong eye contact means you’ve been persuasive — it’s only a positive indicator if the person already agrees with you or is on your side.
So what does that mean for people in interviews, trying to convince their boss that they need a raise, or having a polite debate over dinner? Essentially your point will be better served if you don’t try to stare down the people you’re talking to. Light eye contact is important to show confidence, but going over the top will signal aggressiveness and defensiveness, so don’t be afraid to break eye contact from time to time when you’re thinking. Remember, body language is about more than just your eyes.