Did you know that you have a mere seven seconds to make a first impression? And while eye contact does play a positive role in how people perceive you upon first interaction, locking eyes has the power to enhance all kinds of interactions—be it in friendships, relationships, work connections, and more.
Let’s take a little look at how eye contact can influence a slew of different areas in your life, and ways in which you can optimise your eye contact game for better social, romantic, professional, and intimate connections.
The Eyes Don’t Lie: The Power of Eye Contact
A recent 2020 study examined the role that eye contact plays when it comes to romance.
The researchers used three different methods in the realm of real life speed dating: face to face, video communication with eye contact, and video communication without eye contact.
They wanted to see whether eye contact had any effect on the development of romantic attraction, and if it played a role in reducing uncertainty within initial romantic interactions.
They had their test subjects indulge in forms of self-disclosure and question-asking, which would then give them results as to whether eye contact increased and decreased the chances of romance.
This reduction in uncertainty and increase in intimacy, according the the researchers, is because eye contact is a power non-verbal form of expression, and that it tends to prompt self-disclosure (i.e. telling someone more about themselves).
To further prove this point, it was found more probable that those who did not engage in eye contact asked more questions in an attempt to reduce uncertainty. Not just that, but they were inclined to ask more intimate, direct, and personal questions than those who maintained eye contact.
Conclusively, they found that mutual gaze regulates communication, signals conversational turn-taking, and delivers feedback on receiving and perceiving messages.
In other words, without eye contact, one is more likely to ask more questions in order to regulate a conversation.
4 Benefits Eye Contact Has on Your Social Relationships
This former study aside, there are a ton of other benefits associated with maintaining eye contact when it comes to your social relationships.
1. Eye Contact Helps Recognise Emotions
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and it’s true—even a smile can be distinguished as real or fake simply by looking at the eyes. A 2017 study suggests that humans gauge how others are feeling by analysing their eyes. Not just that, but a 2013 study revealed that, during eye gazing, activity in the amygdala increases. This is the part of the brain that helps us recognise facial cues and people’s emotions.
2. Eye Contact Increases Intimacy
Just as we mentioned the increased levels of intimacy in the 2020 study, a separate study conducted in 1989 had the same result. It was found that when two strangers looked into each other’s eyes for two solid minutes, they both experienced mutual feelings of love. Interestingly, a 2003 study found that, the longer someone stares at another’s face, the more attractive they become. Then, a 2009 study of 32 men found that when women had direct eye contact with them, they were deemed more attractive.
3. Eye Contact Builds Trust
Is it possible to tell if someone is trustworthy or if they’re lying, simply by looking into their eyes? Perhaps! A 2016 study found that the majority of people are more likely to believe someone when they’re looking straight at them. The study also found that those who disagreed with a statement were slower to do so when it was said with a direct gaze. This suggests that believing a statement to be false may be inhibited when that statement is accompanied by direct gaze.
4. Eye Contact Increases Connection
Research conducted in 2017 had some interesting conclusions on how eye contact can increase connection. It found that eye contact could merge one’s perception of self-other. Self-other is the ability to distinguish between their own actions, perceptions, sensations, and emotions, and those of others. In other words, a direct gaze can blur self-other boundaries at both facial and conceptual levels, creating a feeling of connection and ‘oneness’.
How to Boost Your Relationship with Eye Gazing
One popular and easy method that you could use to boost your relationship with your partner includes:
Getting in a comfortable position sitting opposite your partner (if it makes you feel closer or more relaxed, you can hold hands)
Setting a timer of a certain duration, which could begin at a mere 30 seconds at first then increased over time, and then looking into each other’s eyes
Breathing deeply, allowing yourself to blink naturally, and maintaining a continuous soft gaze
Breaking your gaze when the timer goes off
By practising this, you’ll be working on connecting your energies in a non-verbal way, which is just as powerful as verbal communication.
And so, are you more inclined to believe that the eyes are the window of the soul? Because research strongly suggests that it’s a great way to not only increase intimacy and gauge emotion, but also judge someone’s trustworthiness.