How to make eye contact

Explore eye contact’s vital role during conversation and suggestions for developing this skill. This is the first in a series of articles about effective eye contact during interactions.

Some are blue and some are green. Some are brown and others hazel. That’s right: the subject is eyes, but more importantly than the color of someone’s eyes is what their eyes are saying. Not only do our see for us, but they are also a mode of communication. A person can communicate with their eyes and never say a word. Our eyes show emotion or interest and if thought about too much, making eye contact can become awkward and uncomfortable.

Have you thought about eye contact as a skill? As adults, using appropriate eye contact can be difficult. What about youth? Eye contact can be tied to so many life skills that it’s important for our youth to practice and learn about eye contact as a communication skill. Consider for a moment using eye contact to show empathy, concern for others, to manage feelings or to help with communication. Those are all life skills that youth will grow and develop as they mature into successful adults.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper. Eye contact during a conversation is vital. It shows attentiveness and interest in what is being said. Eye contact is similar to a conversation; it goes back and forth between those individuals who are engaged in a discussion, dialogue, or chat. But remember, just as maintaining eye contact is important, be sure not to stare! It can be easy to get caught up in a story that is being told, waiting for the next joke to be said, or listening so intently for the next word that may be spoken that you forget what you’re eye contact might be saying. Staring can create a feeling of uneasiness for both the person talking and the person listening. It’s hard to find that balance of having enough eye contact, but not too much.

Don’t worry if eye contact is something you struggle with. It’s likely that everyone will have a conversation sometime where they can identify some characteristics of odd eye contact, as well as characteristics of really great eye contact. Remember to learn from that. Whichever extreme you experience take a mental note of what you liked and didn’t like.

According to Conversation Aid, there are a few points that can summarize the importance of eye contact:

  • Eye contact opens and closes communication
  • Increased eye contact is associated with credibility and dominance
  • Lack of contact and blinking are interpreted as submissive
  • High status people are looked at, and look more while talking than listening
  • Stares communicate hostility

This article is the first in a series of articles that will examine eye contact in communication. Look for a future article about effective eye contact during presentations.

March 4, 2014 How to make eye contact Making eye contact in conversations is a top social skill you can help your child to learn.

Is making eye contact with other kids a problem for your child? You can help! Use simple ways to teach your child to make eye contact like asking him to look into your eyes when he requests a toy or treat, tape visual aids to your forehead and break the instructions into small steps.

We know that an inability to make eye contact during a conversation is a social deficit. It may be a barrier to your child’s success at making friends.

Take heart if this is a problem for your child. You’re not alone. Making eye contact is a basic social skill that leads to positive social interaction with others. Many children just need help grasping the skill of eye contact when speaking with others.

Reinforce Making Eye Contact

With our 12-year-old twins, my wife and I are very consistent about reinforcing eye contact. Since the boys were small, we’ve always insisted that they look us in our eyes when they ask for a toy or treat. We don’t hand it to them until they make eye contact. Then we PRAISE them every time. Try this with your child. I even make a game out of it!

Research finds that children with social skill learning challenges often require ‘direct instruction’. That means that each part of the skill is broken into smaller pieces. Making eye contact during conversations is no different.

Parenting Science website writes that for kids to get better at making friends certain skills are required that you can easily practice with your child. They also remind us that these life skills (or social skills) are not taught in one day, but over time. So we’ll all need a bit more patience…

Teaching your child the kinds of interpersonal skills that make it easier for him to make friends.

Identify the skills that you can practice with your child. Life skills such as participating in conversations and making eye contact are at the top of the list for me!

Practice How to Make Eye Contact with Your Child

“Look in my eyes.” Make sure your child establishes eye contact when he asks for something. By doing this, you’re teaching him the critical link between communication and focus. If he wants a toy say, “Look in my eyes” so that he better understands the relationship between his request and your ability to fulfill it.

Here are more ideas for practicing eye contact with your child.

Use visual aids. Tape cutouts of eyeballs on your forehead when practicing with your child. This will remind him to look at yours and other peoples’ eyes. It reinforces what eye contact is. Experiment with other aids to gently guide your child to look at your eyes. Try colored stickers placed between your eyebrows.

Apply direct instruction. Break down the rules for making eye contact into simple, age-appropriate steps for your child. For example, explaining how to use eye contact during a conversation might go something like this:

1. We always look into the eyes of the person who is talking.

2. Keep looking into the other kid’s eyes until he is finished talking.

3. If you don’t want to look into someone’s eyes, try looking at their forehead.

4. This is polite and a good thing!

5. When it’s your turn to talk, the other kids will look at you!

More small steps to help your child:

• Don’t look down at the ground when one of the kids is talking.

• Look at the eyes of the kid who is talking.

• Looking at his eyes lets him know that you’re listening.

• The other kids will feel good because you’re looking at them while they talk.

• Looking in the other kids eyes means you are interested in what he’s saying.

Praise big! PBS Therapy recommends that you reinforce your child’s positive behavior up to 25 times per day. Tell your child “I like how you look in my eyes when I’m talking to you!” Find more ways to give your child positive feedback!

Great Story About Teaching Eye Contact

Over on Baby Center Blog there’s a great story about a mom helping her daughter make eye contact. The mom realized her 9-year-old daughter, Violet, never looked other kids in the eye while playing or talking with them. It was one of the reasons her daughter was being ignored at school.

The mom reminded Violet every day about eye contact while they were walking to school and other kids said hello. Her daughter really didn’t like the reminders and complained (loudly) about being reminded.

Then Violet finally got it. Now she always makes eye contact and is forming friendships! The mom was so happy she cried! It’s a great short story about a mom’s persistence and her child’s success at making friends. You can read the full article here.

I wish you all the best with teaching your child about making eye contact! Your time will be well spent!

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Eye contact is vital during a conversation, is a skill that can be developed and can be used to make presentations stronger. Explore some common mistakes that are made with eye contact.

Communication mistakes occur regularly. Statements can be taken out of context; what is said might be misheard; or body language can send an unintended message. Did you know that a person can communicate with their eyes and never say a word? Our eyes show emotion, build connections and indicate interest. Communication mistakes can even happen when using eye contact.

Have you thought about eye contact as a skill? If you are an adult, you already know that using appropriate eye contact can be difficult, so it’s important to help youth think about eye contact as a skill they can continue to work on. Since eye contact can be tied to so many life skills, it’s important for our youth to practice and learn about eye contact as a communication skill. Consider for a moment using eye contact to show empathy, concern for others, to manage feelings or to help with communication. Those are all life skills that youth will develop as they mature into successful adults.

We already know from part one and part two of this article series that eye contact is vital during a conversation because it’s a mode of communication that shows emotion or interest. Likewise, each time a youth talks to a judge, reads minutes of a meeting out loud or provides a how-to demonstration, that youth is presenting. Presentation skills, like eye contact, can be tricky. Because such skills can be tricky, we will explore some common mistakes in eye contact communication and how to remedy those mistakes.

The Conversation Aid website is a great tool that explores many facets of communication. One of the greatest mistakes in eye contact is staring. They suggest the following tips to help maintain good eye contact without staring:

  • Use the 50/70 rule. To maintain appropriate eye contact without staring, you should maintain eye contact for 50 percent of the time while speaking and 70% of the time while listening. This helps to display interest and confidence.
  • Maintain it for 4-5 seconds. Once you establish eye contact, maintain or hold it for 4-5 seconds. After this time passes, you can slowly glance to the side and then go back to establishing eye contact.
  • Think about where you’re looking. Maintaining eye contact is easy because you’re looking at the other person. However, when you look away, do it slowly without darting your eyes. This can make you look shy or nervous. And don’t look down; remember to look from side-to-side. Looking down can give the appearance that you lack confidence.
  • Establish eye contact right away. Before you begin talking, establish eye contact. Don’t look down or look at something before you begin speaking. Establish eye contact right away and then begin talking.
  • Listening with your eyes is important too: Remember the 70 percent rule (you should maintain eye contact for 70 percent of the time while listening)? Communication happens with your eyes while you’re listening just as much as when you’re talking. Remember that while you’re listening and maintaining eye contact, you should smile, open your face and look interested.
  • Practice. Eye contact will come easy to some, but if it doesn’t for you, it’s okay to practice until you become confident. You can look at an eyebrow or the space between the eyes and mouth. You can also practice with yourself in the mirror.

This article is the third and last in a series of articles that examined eye contact in communication. Remember that eye contact is a skill and it often takes time and practice to fine-tune our skills.

How to make eye contact

How to make eye contact

Certainly, there are many non-verbal cues that have completely different meanings in different cultures. One of the most important means of nonverbal communication in any culture is eye contact—or lack thereof. Eye contact—which simply denotes one person looking directly at another person’s eyes—seems to have strong implications in almost every culture, although what these implications are vary extensively across the globe! Eye contact means different things in different cultures

Eye Contact in the United States

What does eye contact mean in the United States? Here, if you have good eye contact with a person, it generally signifies that you are interested in the person you are looking at and in what that person is saying. If you look down or away from a person rather than meeting his or her gaze, you are considered to be distracted or uninterested in him or her. Also, if you neglect to make eye contact with a person, you may be thought to lack self-confidence. On the other hand, a person who makes eye contact with another person is thought to be confident and bold (and boldness is considered a good trait!) So, in summary, making eye contact is generally considered a good thing in the United States.

Eye Contact in Western Europe

On the one hand, the European customs of eye contact—especially in such countries as Spain, France and Germany—tends to be similar to that in the United States. It is considered proper and polite to maintain almost constant eye contact with another person during a business exchange or a conversation.

Yet eye contact also has more flirtatious aspects than it does in the U.S. In the U.S., people often avoid eye contact in crowded impersonal public situations—such as while walking through a busy downtown or riding public transportation. In a country like France, however, a stranger may feel quite free to look at someone he is interested in and try to acknowledge his interest by making eye contact. Therefore, it is important for a visitor to understand the full implications of what he or she may be implying by returning the eye contact initiated by someone else.

Eye Contact in the Middle East

Although all Middle Eastern cultures cannot be grouped into one class, they do have similarities in their rules for the appropriateness of eye culture. Eye contact is much less common and considered less appropriate in many of these cultures than it is considered in the United States. Middle Eastern cultures, largely Muslim, have strict rules regarding eye contact between the sexes; these rules are connected to religious laws about appropriateness. Only a brief moment of eye contact would be permitted between a man and a woman, if at all. However, western women traveling in Muslim areas should not expect that no man will attempt to make eye contact with them. As a matter of fact, their “differentness” may draw attention to them, and men may try to make eye contact with them. They should be aware, however, that returning eye contact will be considered the same as saying, “Yes, I’m interested!” So when in the Middle East, care should be taken in making eye contact with anyone of the opposite gender. On the other hand, in many Middle Eastern cultures, intense eye contact between those of the same gender—especially between men—can mean “I am telling you the truth! I am genuine in what I say!” Try to observe the eye contact between those of the same gender to see if it is important to meet someone’s gaze when you want to tell them, “Trust me! I’m sincere!”

Eye Contact in Asia, Latin America and Africa

In many Asian, African and Latin American cultures, extended eye contact can be taken as an affront or a challenge of authority. It is often considered more polite to have only sporadic or brief eye contact, especially between people of different social registers (like a student and a teacher, or a child and his elder relatives). For example, if a Japanese woman avoids looking someone in the eyes, she is not showing a lack of interest nor is she demonstrating a lack of self-confidence; instead, she is being polite, respectful and appropriate according to her culture. So in many of these cultures, you should take care what kind of eye contact you initiate with those who are your social superiors or who are in authority over you, so that you are not considered disrespectful or overly bold. As you can see, it is vital to know what eye contact communicates before you visit a new culture. Before you travel, you would do well to go to your local public library or bookstore and check out or browse a book about the culture of the country you plan to visit. Learn how to utilize eye contact and other body language wisely so that you are perceived as polite, and so that you can better connect with people in a culture that is foreign to you! Image by Ulrike W. from Pixabay

Yes, eye contact can mean attraction, but it can also mean a simple, non-romantic or non-sexual curiosity. Someone could look your way because they’re trying to figure something out about you, or it can even indicate a negative fixation — that is, they’re looking because they don’t like what they see.

How do you stare at your crush?

Staring can seem aggressive and predatory, and make your crush feel scared or uncomfortable in your presence. Try to casually glance over at your crush from time to time, or admire him or her using your peripheral vision. Try smiling or winking when you do make eye contact with your crush.

How do I get my crush to look at me?

Flirt non-verbally. If you feel nervous about approaching your crush, there are several things you can do to get her attention and appear interested. Make eye contact and smile. Eye contact and smiling shows that you are friendly and approachable, but you have to make sure not to overdo it.

How long should you hold eye contact with your crush?

Maintain eye contact. Normal eye contact lasts for about three seconds. However, if you can hold your crush’s gaze for four and a half seconds, they’ll get a powerful cue that you’re flirting with them. You can even hold it longer, if you like, as long as your crush doesn’t look away.

Is making eye contact flirting?

Of course, making eye contact with someone does not always mean that they are flirting with you. But if you are having a conversation with someone and they are maintaining steady eye contact with you, that usually means they are at least interested in what you have to say.

What are flirty eyes?

You try to catch the attention of another person through your eyes and let the person know that you are romantically interested in them. Using flirty eyes to communicate your feelings to the person you like without actually talking to them is a skill! It’s exciting, safe and there’s no pressure involved.

Is it OK to smile at your crush?

Smile! The universal gesture of kindness, there is nothing so simple and profoundly effective in winning your crush as a smile. Whenever you see her, make sure to flash her a smile! While it might be hard if you’re shy, you should find it gets easier very quickly.

How do I make my crush fall for me in chat?

Try opening with something casual, like, “Hey, how’s it going?” Keep the conversation light and playful and avoid heavy or negative topics so you don’t overwhelm your crush. If your crush responds with long, detailed responses, that’s a good sign that they’re interested in chatting.

What is flirty eye contact?

Eye flirting body language or eye seduction takes place when you try to flirt with someone using your eyes. You try to catch the attention of another person through your eyes and let the person know that you are romantically interested in them.

These days, it seems kids are having a hard time going eye-to-eye—and computers and smartphones may be partly to blame. Here are ways to get your kid to focus.

When your kid meets new people, does he look them in the eye and say hello? What about getting together with Grandma after some time apart: Does he shine his baby blues at her … or look awkwardly off to the side as they chat?

Eye contact is an important social skill that helps us signal our interest in people, that we’re listening and friendly, notes Princeton, NJ–based psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D. Even infants are more engaged if you make eye contact with them. If your child usually looks down or off in the distance while with others, he may be perceived as ill mannered—particularly by adults. Unfortunately, lack of eye contact in kids may be a growing phenomenon, and technology may be partly to blame.

Some studies indicate that excessive screen time (think smartphones and older children) may be robbing kids of the chance to develop nonverbal communication skills—the ability to communicate with others without words, and the aptitude for reading important facial emotions. However, Dr. Kennedy-Moore, who runs the “Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids” video course series at thegreatcourses.com, isn’t sure tech is completely to blame. “In past years, adults also gave kids a hard time insisting they bury their noses in books,” she reminds.

Whatever the reason for less eye contact, Dr. Kennedy-Moore suggests that “seeing eye-to-eye” and a little casual conversation is an important skill for kids to master. Here’s how you encourage your toddler or older child to improve his eye contact when talking to others:

Model bad behavior. Role-play with your child. Let him say hi to you, while you respond by looking off to the side and quietly muttering a greeting. Talk about how that felt to your child. Your kid will see pretty quickly that this approach doesn’t exude friendliness. Explain that this is how others feel when he doesn’t look at them, smile and say a few words.

Offer a script. Kids are often awkward meeting people—even someone they know—because they just don’t know what to say. Help them memorize a routine that includes four simple steps: Look the person in the eye, smile, say hi, and use the person’s name. Show your child how skipping any one of these steps just isn’t as friendly.

Try the eyebrows. If looking someone in the eye is too awkward, Dr. Kennedy-Moore suggests coaching your child to look the person between the eyebrows instead—right at the top of the nose. To the other person, this will appear to be perfect eye contact, but it’s a little easier for shy kids who are just learning how to connect with others.

Turn them into anthropologists. Challenge your child to watch schoolmates and friends for a day. When they see each other for the first time, or walk into a social group, how often do the other kids say hi and look at each other? “They’ll notice right away that other children do it a lot, and they may realize they should try to do the same,” says Dr. Kennedy-Moore.

Try another script with grandparents/adults. Since conversation with adults can be just as tough as the eye contact part, help your child prep ahead of time. Coach him to start by smiling and looking the person in the eyes (or between the eyebrows). Dr. Kennedy-Moore’s formula for talking is “great plus one fact.” Meaning: When Grandpa starts the conversation, it will usually be a question like “How is school going?” The child’s answer can be: “Great (start positive)! In Science, we’re learning about phases of the moon (one fact).” If the question is “How was your weekend?” try “Great! Our soccer team won our match.” And so on.

Be patient. Eye contact can be a very intimate thing, even for adults, reminds Dr. Kennedy-Moore. Hey, that’s why we face forward in an elevator of strangers instead of looking right at them. With a little coaching, though, your child can get comfortable with this key social skill in no time.

For many kids, making eye contact comes fairly naturally. For kids who are on the autism spectrum or for kids who lacked nurturing in the early years or have experienced early childhood trauma, eye contact is far from natural. Some kids find it uncomfortable while others can find it downright painful. How to make eye contactIf your child struggles with eye contact due to RAD, autism, SPD, or FASD, there are some simple activities you can do that help promote eye contact in a non-threatening way.

I want to share one comment before I get started with the activity ideas. It’s important not to say “look me in the eye” during these activities. You are looking to foster natural connection and get your child comfortable with eye contact.

You are wanting to get your child used to eye contact and build up their tolerance for it. It is important not to increase their anxiety or make them feel like they are in trouble for not complying.

I remember well the days when making eye contact was painful for one of our sons. It was hard to watch. It’s so much easier for him now, but it will likely never be as easy as it is for most people.

But there has been tremendous process. I really believe that much of that progress was due to us repetitively doing many of these activities.

Activities to promote eye contact:

Face painting – This is my favourite one. It is so subtle. While painting your child’s face, you will create natural proximity and be looking into each other’s faces. Try having them paint yours (that takes courage, but mama, I believe in you)! Be sure to use washable face paint.

How to make eye contact

Silliness – Make funny faces or use silly getups such as clown noses, glasses with funny noses attached, or stick-on moustaches. Those pictures above are from a Family Fun Night we had. You better believe there was a lot of eye contact practise happening that night even if the kids had no idea there was a purpose beyond laughter!

Stickers – Put stickers or googly eyes on your face. Gradually put them closer to your eyes.

Peek-a-boo – Even with older kids, this game works. With older kids, you’ll have to infuse more silliness to get them to play along. Another way is to teach them to play peek-a-boo with a baby. Ask them to entertain a baby this way and they will be rewarded by smiles and squeals from the baby.

Push them on a swing – Stand in front of them while pushing them on a swing. This encourages eye contact and is great vestibular sensory input.

Secret handshake – Inventing a secret handshake with your child fosters connection and family identity. It also encourages eye contact. Major bonus points if your secret handshake ends with your foreheads touching!

Butterfly kisses and Smurf kisses – Butterfly kisses are when you touch your eyelashes together and blink quickly like butterfly wings flapping. Smurf kisses are when you rub noses. These will obviously be too vulnerable for kids who are at heightened stages of their attachment journey (?).

Board games – Connect 4 is the best one for this if you sit on opposite sides of the board. Because of the level of the board, accidental eye contact is inevitable!

Bubble gum – This is a trick I learned from the late great Karyn Purvis. Bubble gum is good sensory feedback both for proprioception and gustatory (taste). Keep hoards of bubble gum in your child’s favourite flavour. To get a piece of gum, all they have to do is ask “may I please have some gum?” with some degree of eye contact and the answer is always “yes”.

Count freckles – If your child has freckles on their face, count them and assign names to them. Or have them count and name yours. There’s bound to be some eye contact here and there.

Have a staring contest – For kids who are older or further along in their eye contact progress, a staring contest can increase their tolerance for it in a fun way. Don’t attempt with kids who are

Play an eye signal game – Have your child stand a few feet in front of you (or closer if they’ll allow). Signal to them with only your eyes to move to the side (by looking to that side), the other side, stepping back (eyes up), or taking a step forward (one blink).

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For better or worse, the gaze of others has a powerful effect on our behavior.

How to make eye contact

There’s ample evidence that eye contact is highly compelling: We’re more attuned to faces whose eyes are trained on us than faces whose eyes are looking elsewhere. Even newborns pay more attention to faces with eyes gazing directly at them than to faces with eyes looking off in the distance.

You probably already know this if you’ve tried to read in a coffee shop and suddenly “felt” the stare of a stranger. (You look up, look back at them, and they usually look away. Unless they’re trying to hit on you, in which case they ask what you’re reading, whether you come here often, what you’re drinking, or where you’re headed next, and you spend the next 45 minutes trying to end the conversation so you can finish that chapter.)

The impact of someone else’s eyes can work for or against our ability to stay focused. In many cases, us-directed gazes boost our ability to process information related to faces (i.e., concluding that a person is male or female) and enhance our memories of whoever was looking at us. Eye contact can also improve learning in general: A classic 1980 study by James P. Otteson and colleagues in found that young students whose teachers made eye contact with them during lectures had improved recall of verbal material after the class.

However, when we’re trying to focus on something other than a person’s face or the information they’re trying to deliver, eye contact can distract us from non-facial information processing tasks (like that book you were trying to read).

Other people’s eyes also affect our self-awareness: Several studies demonstrate that feeling looked at inclines people to become more attuned to their own body’s physiological responses (heart rate, sweating, and breathing) as well as how they might be perceived by others (e.g., “Does s/he notice I have a toothpaste stain on my t-shirt?”). Mere images of eyes (paintings or pictures rather than an actual person) have even been found to make us act in a prosocial or reputable manner—and such images trump reminders that peers are present and/or will be judging us.

Additionally, we like people (and animated characters) more when these others appear to engage us through eye contact—provided the eye contact is offered in a non-threatening situation. Being gazed at by a potential mate has also been found to increase our attraction to them, as long as that potential mate also looks relatively happy.

In a recent review of the many powerful effects eye contact has on our behavior, cognition, and arousal levels, researchers Laurence Conty, Nathalie George, and Jari K. Hietanen explain that “direct gaze has the power to enhance the experience that the information present in the situation is strongly related to one’s own person.” They believe that the self-referential information processing brought about by feeling looked at “acts as an associative ‘glue’ for perception, memory, and decision-making.” This can serve to enhance memory and make us behave more altruistically, they explain, by heightening “the salience of concerns about being a target for others’ social evaluation and, consequently, concerns about one’s self-reputation.” (We do the right thing because we assume we’re going to be judged, we’re being watched, or we just like the person whose gaze looks warm, and we’d like to be nice to them out of sheer gratitude for being favorably noticed.)

The researchers believe that eye contact can and should be used “for therapeutic purposes.” They note “that the use of eye contact during therapeutic processes increase the patient’s appraisal of the therapist’s interpersonal skills and effectiveness.” Given eye contact’s ability to enhance memory for specific context-specific material, they have a hunch eye contact may be particularly helpful for people with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), which, they write, “is characterized not only by memory impairments, but also by psycho-behavioral anomalies that necessarily appear at some point of the disease and impoverish the patient’s relations with others. Interestingly, the processing of eye direction as well as eye contact behavior seems to be preserved in patients with AD. This predicts that the W.E. [Watching Eyes] effects may also be preserved and may therefore be stimulated to improve the quality of social exchange of these patients.”

Precautions should be observed, however, in subjecting people with certain diagnoses to excessive eye contact. The gaze of others can trigger intense feelings of shame and other negative self-evaluations in socially anxious individuals, for instance. And people who meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder are more apt to perceive negative emotions in others’ facial expressions, potentially inclining them to interpret a kind or innocuous gaze as a threatening (or judgmental) stare.

Additional work suggests that when being confronted or challenged by someone, eye contact can serve to enhance perceived aggression. In fact, a study investigating the role of eye contact in persuasion found that direct gazes impaired actors’ ability to change others’ opinions, contrary to the assumption that eye contact always works in favor of increasing warm feelings between two people.

Research has shown that most people are comfortable with approximately 3.2 seconds of eye contact from a stranger—but more if that stranger seems trustworthy, and even more if that stranger later becomes a friend.

Eye contact can have a memory-boosting, prosocial, and stimulating effect as long as it’s wanted by the person being looked at. If you’re trying to use eye contact to your advantage, pay attention to the cues coming from the person you’re staring at: If they’re returning your gaze, lighting up, becoming more talkative, or straightening their posture or relaxing as you look into their eyes, you’re doing great. But if they’re shying away, acting nervous, looking annoyed, or they keep trying to turn their attention back toward the book you just distracted them from reading, it’s probably a good idea to look (and possibly, go) away.