The Power of Eye Contact: How Technology Is Creating Barriers to Quality Communication

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The eyes are the window to your soul.” But today we live in a society where it’s perfectly acceptable to minimize and even eliminate eye contact in day-to-day interactions. We can breeze through our days glued to a screen or hiding behind a pair of sunglasses, and connecting with others through physical signs — a mutual glance, a handshake, a hug, a warm smile — is no longer the norm.

Our dependence on technology, particularly our phones and computers, has changed the way we connect with our friends, family, co-workers, and the world at large. As a result, nonverbal messages are misconstrued and statements are misinterpreted. Whether we realize it or not, we’re putting up barriers to healthy communication.

Seeing Eye to Eye

According to experts at Quantified Communications, an ideal amount of eye contact for making an emotional connection falls between 60 and 70 percent of the time. Face-to-face interaction enables that comfortable level of eye contact, and holding that gaze — even for a few seconds — supports a direct and clear conversation.

What about FaceTime and Skype? These services allow us to lock eyes, albeit through the barrier of a screen. While this is better than nothing at all, it still doesn’t replicate the in-person experience. In fact, experts say that physical touch “can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, sometimes more quickly and accurately than words.”

Restoring Healthy Communication

Forming healthy connections and investing in our relationships at a deeper level may indeed require more “face time,” if only for the opportunity to express our thoughts and emotions through eye contact and other physical gestures. Whether this is in the workplace, at school, at home, or in a social setting, nothing can replace the value of face-to-face interactions.

How can you start making improvements in this regard? Focus on making changes in one specific aspect of your life, whether that’s at home, at work, or out in public. Replacing text messages and phone calls with in-person conversations is a start. In the realm of business, cutting down on emails and social media messages in favor of meetings or even video conference calls can help to establish a closer connection. Finally, simply being present — by eliminating the habit of glancing at the nearest electronic device — will make it much easier to maintain healthy communications with others.

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