I have been slighted twice lately. The first was recently on a plane. I was engrossed in a conversation with my seatmate. Another passenger interrupted us to make an introduction to my traveling companion. My companion said, “I’d like to introduce you to Jane”. The passenger, said “Hello” and never once looked at me. Now, it may color the story to share with you that my seatmate was Gary Player, the golf legend, but that passenger couldn’t tell you anything about me – not even that I’m a woman! I was invisible to him.
Last night, I was at a business function in a group of four people. A new person joined us and a colleague said, “I’d like to introduce you to Jane and Chris”. This man shook my hand while he was looking – at Chris.
There is nothing more telling about what is important to you than where you focus your eyes. Have you ever known anyone who has “Shiny Object Syndrome”? This is my term for a person who may be talking with you, but constantly shifts their attention to every new person passing by or walking in – any movement draws their attention. How do you feel when you are speaking with a person like this? You realize immediately that you don’t have their undivided attention, don’t you? What gives it away? The eyes – always. And, there isn’t a faster, quicker way to let someone know they aren’t important than by refusing to give them your undivided attention.
I’m asked about eye contact a lot when I coach speakers. They want to know – How long should I make eye contact? What is the difference between eye contact and staring? Won’t it creep people out if I look into their eyes like that? Really, when we don’t make eye contact is isn’t because we don’t want to offend someone. When we don’t make eye contact, it is all about us. We are either uncomfortable or oblivious.
We are uncomfortable because people have said for centuries that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and we don’t want anyone looking at our soul! Or, we are oblivious because we are not thinking about creating a connection with the person, in fact, we aren’t thinking about the other person at all, but are thinking about our own wants or needs.
Try an experiment with me. For the next thirty days, make a commitment to intentionally connect with people you are speaking to – especially your clients. Be conscious of making eye contact when you are conversing. Remember that where you focus your eyes tells people where you are focusing your attention.
What will happen at the end of thirty days if you are diligent in this? People will tell you you’re a great listener. They will feel like they are important to you. And, gosh darn-it, they’ll like you! (credit to Stewart Smalley, SNL)