Although intimidating to some, establishing a direct eye contact it is good practice. Look into your eyes during a conversation favors active listening, increases confidence and also has other associated Benefits interpersonal. “It is a way of creating healthier social relationships,” indicates clinical psychologist Elena Daprá.
Now that, as a consequence of the coronavirus, much of the social interaction takes place through a screen or with a mask, the role of the eyes has been emphasized. In both cases, the communication as we knew it is modified and the look direct is a tool with which to reaffirm presence.
“It is a requirement indispensable to tell the interlocutor that I am listening, express intense emotions, to take turns speaking or initiate communication, especially with a stranger ”, he continues. Even for Zoom or Facetime it is important to hold the gaze.
What happens in the brain?
The direct look activates what is known as social brain. “Studies with neuroimaging show that certain brain regions located in the temporal lobe (the most lateral in each cerebral hemisphere) are the ones that are most activated when we look into someone’s eyes”, explains Ela Isabel Olivares, professor of Psychobiology in the department of Biological and Health Psychology of the Autonomous University of Madrid.
The fusiform gyrus, especially in the right hemisphere, contains specialized neural circuits for eye detection, while the superior and its temporal sulcus are more sensitive to more dynamic aspects, such as facial expressions and the direction of the interlocutor’s gaze, both interpersonal communication tools.
Looking into the eye activates what is known as the social brain, the parts that are good at communicating
“Cognitive neuroscientists have experimentally proven that eye presence in face images it is very relevant for the typical cerebral electrical response to occur, the well-known N170 wave, which perception of faces by our brain. Also, so that recognition is facilitated when it comes to people who are familiar to us in some way ”, adds Olivares.
Looking into the eyes is an act that activates the parts of the brain that are good at communicating and thinking about how the other person perceives the world. Two factors from which to establish links more intimate with others, and essential to activate empathy.
Why should we also look into the eyes on the screen?
According to a study of 1,400 adults with a tendency to feel isolated, those who maintained virtual eye contact with others had a lower risk (approximately 50%) of developing depression, compared to those who only used the chat or the telephone.
“Experimental studies currently being done on the recognition of identity and facial emotional expressions commonly use computer screens. With this, it is not surprising that the digital screens themselves that show live images of human faces, through tools such as FaceTime, Zoom and TeamsThey are also more than adequate channels for social interaction through the face ”, argues Olivares.
Although there is a certain hierarchy when it comes to eye contact (with the connection in person as the preferred), when conditions such as distance do not allow it, video calls are the best option.
How to look so as not to intimidate
Despite its many benefits, looking straight into the eyes is uncomfortable for many people. “Eye contact is usually interrupted by shame, insecurity, we do it as an irrational strategy in which we think that the other is not going to realize what we are feeling ”, explains Daprá.
But the psychologist also points to the strong ability to capture the attention that the gaze has as another reason that can interrupt it. “It is so powerful that it requires so much cognitive attention to think and reflect that sometimes you need to look the other way,” he continues.
For this reason, the duration, the direction, the intensity and the facial gestures that accompany the gaze are very important. Also, avoid making eye contact intimidating. “It is important not to fix your eyes, not open them too much and that don’t be an intense look”, Recommends the psychologist. It is possible that prolonged gazes are uncomfortable, due to the effusiveness of the person transmitting or resulting challenging for your insistence.
Tips to keep your gaze
In order to keep your gaze beneficial and not an ordeal during conversation, there are some methods that help maintain direct eye contact.
– If it is necessary to face an uncomfortable conversation, looking directly in the eyes can be difficult, and introduce movement it can help. “If, for example, I have a chat with a roommate about something that I didn’t like, I can do it while I’m cooking, so I look at each other, but not all the time,” advises Daprá.
– More interesting than an intense gaze, is to establish eye contact with Approaches. “Do not look all the time, do it at times and then look the other way, like you get lost. If someone needs to look away to reflect, they can comment directly with formulas such as: “Excuse me, but I was not looking at you because I was thinking,” suggests the psychologist.
– Maintaining direct eye contact can also be done to train in cases where shame or insecurity makes it difficult. “A tool is to fix a point on the face of the other person and direct attention there, as long as it is not possible to do so to the eyes. From there, alternate between that point and the gaze ”, recommends the expert.
“Initially, to train, you can fix a point on the other person’s face and direct your attention there”