One of the most important part of talking to a stranger is making correct eye contact.
“Well, what do you mean by correct eye contact?”
I am not saying there is one correct form of eye contact. There are many ways you can interpret eye contact depending on how long you make it, who you make it with, and where you make it.
“Is there a right way to do it? Is there a formula?”
Uhh...no. But there is one way to find it out. By experimenting and practicing with your peers in a new class, organization, or even at the bus stop.
After being introduced to this topic in my BA 100 class by Professor Michael Popowits, these are the three variables that I used when I was experimenting, and the conclusions that I made from my experiences.
- Who do I make the eye contact with?
- Being a freshman and commuting to college can sometimes make it hard to make friends. So, I started to look for similarities that I share with others around me. For example, gender, ethnicity, sports that we might enjoy, train line, or even the type of clothing. Talking to new people and making eye contact definitely made it easier if I shared a similarity.
- What is the best time to make eye contact?
- It all depends on where you are and who are with. It is not a good idea to talk to someone when they are walking in a hurry. It just comes out to be strange or inappropriate. You definitely do not want to disturb them if they seem busy. So, finding a time where the other person is free is the best time to talk and make eye contact.
- How long do I keep the eye contact?
- Definitely no longer than 5 seconds at a time. I think the ideal amount of eye contact is about 3 seconds because it’s a point where it is natural and not awkward. Sometimes, it is more appropriate to make longer eye contact but it all depends on the situation.
These are all the things that I found out through the experiment. This absolutely made me more comfortable to talk with new people. Try it out for yourself and learn from your experiences.