Establishing and maintaining eye contact is an essential element in communicating effectively. It is a courtesy which implies that a person has an interest in the topic being discussed, and contributes to a more active listening process. There is a sincerity expressed when making eye contact that places greater emphasis on what is being said, and it creates a more intimate interaction between the speaker and listener.
Establishing eye contact expresses a transfer of empathy, compassion, and concern. It also displays a measure of respect to everyone involved in each element of the communication process. It lets people know that they're message is being heard, and that there is an active level of participation. Visually interacting when speaking, conveys a passion for the subject matter, and encourages active listening from others involved.
Maintaining Eye contact also displays trust. It expresses an unspoken message of honesty and sincerity that does not have to be verbally communicated. Individuals who visually engage their listeners deliver a message which creates a stronger bonding, and they become less likely to be doubted. Eye contact conveys an aura of confidence that few words can express, and encourages others to have confidence in that person, and their message.
Visually engaging people draws them in when lecturing, or speaking in public. Public speakers are taught to pick out two or three friendly faces in different areas of their audience and establish eye contact with them while speaking. This allows them to become more comfortable addressing every area of their audience, giving the impression that they are making their point to people individually.
Initiating eye contact is not difficult, but maintaining it is often overlooked as an acquired skill. Staring intently into the eyes of another individual can be an unsettling experience, and many people are uncomfortable being under such a direct gaze. Learning to maintain frequent and sustained eye contact is not as easy as simply looking into someone's eyes. Visually engaging others becomes personal, and for many people, it is something which must be earned.
Maintaining eye contact can feel intrusive so many people unconsciously focus their gaze in other areas to avoid feeling uncomfortable. They exchange informal glances while communicating, but will avoid focusing on another person's eyes for any extended periods of time. Their eyes meet occasionally during the conversation, but begin to wander as the brain processes information, and explores the creative crevices which produce thoughts and ideas.
Eye contact essentially establishes a relationship between a speaker and listeners, or individuals involved in conversation. The level of visual contact may be instrumental in determining the level of passion, honesty, and trust exchanged between those involved in the communication process, and for those hoping to participate in a more interactive communication experience.