Here’s Where You Should Look When Talking to Someone

Man listening to a woman

At times you might be having a good conversation with someone when, all of a sudden, you might realize that you are either looking everywhere except the person’s face or maybe you are staring right at them. Situations like these may make you wonder where should you look when talking to someone.

It is pretty common and understandable to ask any of the following questions to yourself when you are talking to someone:

Where should you look when talking to someone?

or

Where are you supposed to look when talking to someone?

According to the general rule, when talking to someone, you should ideally look at their eyes. Or you can also try maintaining eye contact with the person. 

However, there is a very thin line between maintaining eye contact and straight up staring at someone.

The difference is very minute. When you are looking someone in the eye, the gesture is warmer and shows your interest in the conversation. On the other hand, when you end up looking at someone’s eyes for a little too long, it may take the form of an intense stare. And that is not a very pleasant experience for anyone. 

So what should you do to avoid turning pleasant eye contact into a creepy stare?

1. Shorten your gaze

Try to either switch between the eyes or take a break from eye contact by looking at random objects. The reason for this is what we call the “Kiss or Kill.” What this essentially means is that maintaining longer eye contact may signal that you are either attracted to this person or that you want to attack them.

2. Use 50/70 Rule

The 50/70 rule states that when speaking, you should try to make eye contact for only 50% of the time. While when you are on the listening end of the conversation, try to look the other person in the eyes for about 70% of the conversation. The rest of the time, you can focus on other parts of their face or your surroundings.

So circling back to the question, 

When talking to someone, should you look them in the eyes?

Absolutely! When talking to someone, you should ideally look people in the eyes. Eye contact is a great way of building rapport with people and it is also boosts dopamine.

Advantages of making eye contact during a conversation

Green eyes

1. Helps you bond with people

Research has shown that making eye contact activates the limbic mirror system.

This system ensures that the same neurons that are being fired in the other person are activated in you too. What this means is that if you can notice joy or sadness in someone’s eyes, the neurons in your body will register it and fire similar emotions in you. 

In this way, eye contact actually increases the level of empathy among people. 

2. Helps in building trust

When someone isn’t reluctant to make eye contact with you, it shows that they have nothing to hide. It also means that they aren’t trying to deceive you.

And this is something that many people across the world believe in. So making eye contact with people when you are talking to them makes the information you share more believable and trustworthy.

3. Shows your degree of interest

Looking at someone’s eyes, especially when you are listening to them, is the easiest way of showing your deep interest in the person or at least what they have to say. 

4. Helps with remembering things

Let’s assume you are talking to someone and as you talk you maintain eye contact with the other person. Do you think that will affect the amount of conversation they will remember later?

As surprising as it may sound, the answer is yes. 

Looking at someone in the eyes when you are talking has been shown to increase retention rates of the listeners

And no, this doesn’t mean the next time you are talking to someone you should try looking them in the eyes for the entire duration for which you speak. Making eye contact for a mere 30% of the time that you are talking can also give the same results!

Lets dive a little deeper into the understanding why you should be focusing on others eyes when talking to them.

During eye contact, do you look at one eye or both eyes?

Have you ever tried looking at both eyes of a person?

If not we recommend you to try it at least once.

You might find it a little challenging to do so. This is because it is physically quite challenging to look at both eyes at the same time. And so, even if you want to, you might end up focusing on only one eye of the person at a time. 

Now, if that is the case, what eyes do you look at when talking to someone?

According to the general rule of thumb, you can settle on any eye of the person you are talking to as long as you keep switching between their eyes from time to time.

Focusing on one eye for anywhere between 5-10 seconds before switching to the other eye is usually recommended. 

What does it mean when you look at someone’s right eye?

It is widely believed that when you look at someone’s right eye while talking, it indicates that you are looking at the person or the conversation through a more emotional standpoint.

This is often backed by the idea that that particular side of the brain deals with emotions. However, this is just a thought and the idea isn’t backed by any credible studies.

What does looking into the left eye mean?

Another one of these widely believed theories is that when someone looks in your left eye while talking, they are being more logical or analytical. Again, it is believed that the side of the brain that is concerned with it is more analytical than creative. 

And yet again, as mentioned, the idea is not backed by any credible research. 

In fact, a 2012 study put an end to all the rumors. It proved that there was no connection between the eye that people tend to focus on and the hemispheres of the brain.

But what if you find it difficult or even awkward to make eye contact with people? Do you look away or push yourself to look into their eyes?

Although it is always suggested to look into people’s eyes, it isn’t the only way to make others feel that they are being heard or that you are interested in the conversation. In fact, a lot of people find it difficult to maintain eye contact and may rather look away while they are talking. 

So is it normal to look away when talking?

Yes, the number of people who find it either challenging or uncomfortable to maintain eye-contact are way more than the ones who are genuinely good at meeting people’s eyes while talking. 

And if you happen to be one of them, don’t beat yourself up. We have in fact got a couple of hacks that you can use to not look into other’s eyes but make it seem like you are!

Where to look while talking if you find it difficult to maintain eye contact?

1. Forehead

Forehead of a woman

If looking at people in their eyes is the most dreadful experience for you, then you can definitely consider looking at their foreheads or the space between their eyebrows to be more specific. It usually gives an illusion that you are looking at people’s eyes when you are actually not. 

2. Nose-Chin

Part of a woman's face

Yet another alternative to looking at eyes is to look at the area that covers the person’s nose and chin. However, avoid looking specifically at people’s lips for too long as it might signal something inappropriate. 

Where should you look while Public speaking?

When it comes to public speaking, you can definitely follow the above steps and look at their foreheads or the area between their nose and chin. But since there are more individuals involved when you are giving a speech or presentation to a crowd, you can try to look between their chairs as well. 

When you gaze at their chairs, what you’d be able to see would be on either their shoulders or sides of their heads and that would again make it seem like you are making eye-contact with the people while at the same time saving you from getting any eye-contact anxiety.

Check out our video below to know more about maintaining eye contact while public speaking.

Where should you look when someone is talking to you at work?

Eye-contact at work is a great way of showing your confidence and establishing credibility. 

It is usually recommended to keep your gaze in the triangular space between their eyes and nose. You can also occasionally shift to their foreheads if maintaining eye-contact for too long is a little too intimidating for you. 

However, in situations like when they are presenting you with some results, you can obviously try and look at the documents or presentation while looking at them every now and then. 

Besides that, There are no hard and fast rules as to where you should be looking while talking to someone at work. You can decide what is more comfortable for you and go about it that way.

Why does someone not look at you while talking?

1. Too shy

People might avoid looking straight into your eyes while talking when they feel a little shy. They may either look sideways or look down and may try to look you in the eyes at times, but avoid maintaining eye-contact at all costs.

2. Emotional conversation

At times, people may not look you in the eyes because the conversation is simply too emotional for them and they do not try to let those emotions get the best of them.

3. Are distracted

At times, people may not be looking at you or maintaining eye-contact while talking to you because they are simply distracted. This mean that they are either not interested in the conversation or too interested in the thing that is distracting them.

4. Are thinking

Before we label someone as inattentive just because they are not looking at us in our eyes, we need to understand that there are times when people might simply be looking somewhere else because they are thinking either about what you are saying or about what they should say next.

How to get good at maintaining eye-contact?

Practicing eye contact can actually go a long way in helping you gain confidence and making eye-contact with others over time. 

Here are a couple of ways you can practice eye contact:

1. Record yourself

Woman filming herself

The easiest and most convenient way to learn and maintain or make eye-contact is by recording yourself. When you record yourself, you can pretend that you are having a conversation with someone or you can make a short speech that you plan on delivering. Try to look yourself in the eye when doing so. 

2. Watch a video or movie

Yet another way of working on your eye-contact is by trying to look at characters in their eyes when you are watching a movie or a video. Often we tend to be so engrossed in grasping the entirety of the scene that we rarely, if ever, look at the characters’ eyes. But if you want to improve the way you engage in any conversation, you might have to now start taking a look at the characters and their eyes. 

3. Try to maintain eye-contact when talking to people

Once you feel that you are getting a better grasp of maintaining your eye contact with yourself, you can then try to do the same exercise while talking to others. 

Final Words

As tricky as it might seem, eye contacts are actually one of the most crucial forms non-verbal communication. When listening, they are an easy indicator of your interest in the conversation. And when you are talking, eye-contacts helps in building other’s trust in what you are saying.

But if you find it difficult to maintain eye contact, then you can try to pretend to be looking at people’s eyes. You can do that by focusing either on their foreheads or the area between their nose and chin.

However, these are just suggestions that have worked well for most of the people. You will have to try out what works for you and what doesn’t. Since there are no predefined rules in terms of eye contacts, feel free to try out as many alternatives as you feel like for maintaining eye-contact.

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