The Eye Of The Tiger

The way that we create, hold and break eye contact, says a lot about our ability to influence.

In western cultures, the ability to hold eye contact is interpreted as a sign of strength. If you can’t look someone in the eye, you are perceived as someone who is weak. Alternatively, if you hold someone’s eye contact for too long, you are seen as being aggressive. When people challenge each other, they often stare at each other to show a sign of strength. They stare at each other to see who will break first.

When you make eye contact, the length of time that you hold that eye contact can determine how powerful you intend to be, in coming across. If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a person you have strong feelings for, and held eye contact, you will find that the longer the eye contact is held, the more feelings are aroused. It’s the same in the workplace.

There are two exercises you can use to strengthen this.

The first is the length of time that you hold eye contact. Practice holding eye contact just a bit longer than is comfortable. If you look your boss in the eye maybe you would break that normally after two to three seconds. Try holding it for four. Maybe you hold eye contact for four or five; hold it for six. And gradually, over the next few days, extend the length of the time that you hold eye contact. This will give you greater strength and ability to stare at someone, and hold eye contact in a position of power when you need it.

The second exercise is to be conscious of where your eyes go once you break eye contact. If you’re looking at someone in the eye and you break your eye contact and your eyes go down to look at nothing in particular, it’s seen as being weak. It’s almost cowering, “I shouldn’t have been looking”. If you’re making eye contact with somebody and then your eyes move up just to look above their head or out the window or off in the distance, that gives the feeling of “I’m above you, I’m above this, I’m looking elsewhere”.

When your eyes break and move off at the same level. This gives a feeling and perception of equality, “I’m with you; I’m equal”. It’s not as threatening, nor is it seen as “I’m cowering”.

Today you have two exercises to do:

  1. Hold eye contact just a little bit longer than is normally comfortable
  2. Pay attention to the way in which you break eye contact

Go through Dynamic Reflection on this – that is, once you’ve had a conversation and you’ve moved on elsewhere, think about how your eyes have been making contact, holding contact and breaking contact.

Eye contact is a powerful way to establish authority and influence.

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