A politician delivers his message as he scans the faces in an eager crowd.
A college student gives a presentation and reinforces her points with nods to her classmates and professor.
A young professional strides down the footpath and offers a smile to colleagues heading home.
What do these people all have in common?
They’re skilled at making eye contact, and as a result, they exude confidence.
According to Lillian Glass, a body language expert and author of “The Body Language Advantage,” strong eye contact is the single greatest indicator of confidence.
“Confident people are always looking up, never down at the table, the ground, or their feet,” Glass says. “Whether in conversation or just walking in the office hallway, they’re looking at other people. They’re engaging them through their eye contact.”
Eye contact establishes a connection, shows sincerity, and helps to create a sense of trust between people.
A study conducted at the University of Leuven in Belgium concluded that individuals with higher self-esteem are more likely to hold eye contact than their less confident peers, whose low self-esteem was associated with darting gazes.
Researchers at King’s College also found that we associate higher levels of eye contact with stronger leadership abilities, greater aggression and strength, and higher intelligence.
For many people, though, looking others in the eye — and holding that gaze — can be difficult.
If this is something you struggle with, try looking at the other person’s eyes for two seconds, looking at their nose for two seconds, looking at their mouth for two seconds, and then looking at their face as a whole for two seconds. Continue this rotation throughout your conversation.
If you use this trick, Glass says, the other person won’t be able to tell that you’re not looking directly at their eyes the entire time.
Make a habit of practicing eye contact in your day-to-day life — on the subway in the morning, strolling outside on your lunch break, and in conversations at the office and with friends. You’ll be surprised by how much more confidence you project as you get better at locking eyes.