Some new research tells us that using a lot of direct eye contact isn’t always a good idea.
The study, published in the journal “Psychological Science,” found speakers with a strong opinion about a controversial topic have less chance of persuading someone who disagrees if they make direct eye contact.
“It’s just too aggressive,” said Brandon Smith, a communication expert and workplace consultant. “It doesn’t feel open. [It] feels too pushy. So we want to temper that [eye contact].”
In the study, researchers had subjects watch videos of people talking about controversial topics. They presented a strong opinion that was opposite of the subject watching the video. Some participants watched the speaker’s eyes; others watched the speaker’s mouth. Those who watched the eyes were less likely to change their minds.
Smith said the study misses a key behavior many of us use in those situations to soften our approach, however. He explains what that is and another trick to help modulate our eye contact on this week’s Working on GPB Radio.