You might have heard, and many times before, that it is important to look at others in the eye, especially when having conversations with them. This advice is more prevalent in North America and the Western world than it is in other parts where eye contact with people of different social or religious statuses is often forbidden.
Before I continue, I want to point to the importance of these cultural observances. There are only a few transgressions more detrimental to good impressions than disrespecting someone's worldview. Some cultural norms have been, and often still are, the cause of dangerous conflict.
The suggestion to maintain eye contact with our interlocutors is so widespread and respected that it has spawned myths about honesty and deception; you might have received the instruction to "look at someone in the eye, and tell them the truth" before. Such a demand tends to come from someone sceptical of your message - someone requiring proof that what you tell them is the truth. The problem with this request is that it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human physiology and psychology, as whilst a firm gaze is a characteristic of a confident speaker, people need to move their eyes to access or create information. And yes, another myth comes from our need to move our eyes to think correctly, and I will cover this on a later article. Still, the perceived correlation between eye contact and honesty is indicative of our disposition to like confidence and self-esteem in others.
You are more likely to believe a lie told with utter conviction and in the right style than an insecure truth.
But, more importantly, the fact that we are suckers for a confident gaze and smile means that proper eye contact is a great tool to establish a good first impression.
Do your best to study someone's eyes when you first meet them. Pay close attention to their eye colour and shape while taking time to explore the rest of their face subtly; this will make the other person feel as if they have your undivided attention, which in turn, will make you more likeable to them. Furthermore, aside from creating a sense of connection with your partner in conversation, it will allow you a quick but helpful look at how they react to your presence, by giving you a glance into their nonverbal feedback like pupil dilation and subtle facial expressions.
Such is the power of a good gaze; it is known to move not only mountains, but undo buttons and lower the strongest of defences.