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Eye contact

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How often have you heard it said: “Your eyes are the window to the world.”

As eye care professionals, we usually say it when we refer to diseases of the eye. Today, I would like to touch on another subject, the business of eye contact. No, I am not talking about contact lenses. I am referring to the way we look at people.{{more}}

When you talk to someone, do you look directly at them or do you look away?

Did you know that maintaining eye contact when listening or talking to someone gives them the impression that, apart from looking confident, you are most likely being honest?

Looking away too often can send the message that you either do not like the person you are communicating with, or that you are being untruthful. In some cases, they may even believe that you are being arrogant.

In many cases, this may be furthest from the truth. It could just be shyness or nervousness.

Statistics show that good eye contact, a non-verbal form of communication, is rarely used by most people. This is often the cause of great misunderstandings, as 90 per cent of communication is non-verbal.

This could even influence our social behaviour. People with low self-esteem seldom show good eye contact.

However, staring at someone (unbroken eye contact) for too long can also make them feel uncomfortable. Some see it as being aggressive and others may think something is wrong with you.

It has also been shown that the significance of eye contact can vary widely between cultures and religions, with social differences often changing its meaning immensely.

Our eyes are known as the most direct link to our emotions. And, since one of the most important tasks of life is connecting with others, we would be foolish not to take full advantage of this.

Here are five tips for good eye contact:

1. Always “Speak to the eyes” (not the floor or the ceiling or somewhere else). If you feel uncomfortable at first, try looking at a point between the other person’s eyes or at their forehead.

2. Use “soft eyes” – Do not bore holes through people. This can make anyone uncomfortable.

3. Be sensitive to cultural, religious, social and gender differences. Especially when dealing with the opposite sex, be careful not to give the wrong impression.

4. In order not to appear as if you are staring, break the contact from time to time and then resume your gaze.

5. When speaking to groups, seek to include everyone in the room.

For some, developing this skill may take some getting used to. Keep practising good eye contact and you will be amazed at the results.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: Beachmont@gmail.com

Tel: 784 456-1210

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