User Reviewed

How to Look People in the Eye

Three Parts:Practicing in ConversationPracticing at HomeGiving the Right Impression

Making good eye contact is surprisingly difficult, and we can all learn to use good communication skills during important interactions. If you want to be a better listener, speaker, and cultivate a more convincing presence, you can learn to practice making eye contact on your own and in conversations to give the right impression.

Part 1
Practicing in Conversation

  1. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 1
    Try and relax as much as possible. As with anything else, the more you think about what you're doing, the more self-conscious you'll become and the more awkward you'll feel. Your nervousness can then be misinterpreted as dishonesty, and you'll lose ground on the good progress you've made.
    • Typically, making eye contact is more difficult as the person you're talking to is more authoritative or intimidating. Unfortunately, these are also typically the times you'll need to show confidence in order to gain the full attention of your audience, making it more important than ever to relax.
    • If you're going into an important conference or interview, do some breathing exercises beforehand to get your heart rate to slow and let the oxygen relax you. A few big, full, deep breaths can do a lot to calm you down.
  2. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 2
    Focus on one eye. It's actually physically somewhat difficult to keep your eyes locked on both of another person's eyes. It's more common to actually focus on one, or on a spot on the face, rather than trying to look at both eyes at once.
    • If it helps, try moving back and forth between the two eyes, rather than staying focused on one. Keep focused on one for 10 seconds or so, then switch to the other.
  3. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 3
    Find a nearby spot to fix your gaze. Looking at the bridge of the nose, an eyebrow, or just below the eyes will give the illusion of eye contact, without the intimidation of making actual eye contact. The other person won't be able to tell the difference, and you'll be able to focus on more important listening skills to be a good conversationalist.
  4. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 4
    Break your gaze to nod, or make other gestures while listening. You need to break your gaze every now and then, and it helps to be making another gesture when you do, rather than just looking away because you feel uncomfortable. It's good to break eye contact when you're laughing, or to nod and smile. This looks natural and comfortable, as well as providing you a needed break if necessary.
  5. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 5
    Try to keep your eyes focused while you talk as well as listen. It's one thing to look while you're listening, but it's much more difficult to keep eye contact while you're also trying to think of things to say. Don't be afraid if you have to break your gaze occasionally, but try to keep your face and eyes forward and up as you're talking.
    • Looking up when you're talking is sometimes thought to suggest that you're lying, while looking down is sometimes thought to signify confusion on your part. For this reason, it's usually best to look straight ahead, even if you're feeling uncomfortable and can't keep your eyes making contact. Look at the other person's ear, or chin, or anywhere but up or down.

Part 2
Practicing at Home

  1. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 6
    Use practice sessions to remind yourself to make eye contact. A big part of making eye-contact is just remembering that you're supposed to. If your natural inclination is to stare down at your shoes, try to practice when you're alone to realign your natural response to gaze down by focusing your eyes on faces. This can be done on television, in the mirror, or in a variety of other ways.
  2. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 7
    Practice on the television. One of the most readily available ways of practicing your eye-contact is to do it when you're alone, watching television. Focus on making eye contact with the characters on the screen and practicing the same skills to transfer them to your real-life conversations.
    • Obviously eye-contact with faces on television will feel very different than making eye contact with real people. The point of the exercise is to practice the skill, not to approximate the feeling.
  3. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 8
    Try watching video blogs. If you don't have a television, try looking up YouTube vlogs and other videos in which people make eye-contact with the screen. This can make the eye-contact feel a lot more real. These videos are widely available and free, and are actually somewhat better at approximating what it's like to make eye contact during a conversation.
  4. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 9
    Try video chatting. If you have a close friend who you enjoy talking to, try using Skype or use another type of video chat to practice your eye contact. This is usually somewhat easier than in person, since you've got a computer screen between you.
  5. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 10
    Practice looking into your own eyes in the mirror. Again, it won't feel the same as making eye contact with another person, but you can practice training your eyes to drift toward the eyes you see back in the mirror, rather than deflecting them, if you practice looking at your gaze in the mirror. Just taking a few minutes before or after a shower can help you train yourself to make eye-contact, rather than avert your eyes.[1]
  6. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 11
    Take it slow. You don't have to transition from feeling awkward and as if you've got shifty eye contact to suddenly drilling eye-lasers into the people you're having conversation lists. In fact, this can actually be somewhat disconcerting. You're probably already making some degree of eye-contact, but if it's something that you're trying to work on, take it slowly.
    • If you make one extra effort to lock eyes during a conversation each day, call it a success. You don't have to sit through extra-long conversations made up entirely of locked eyes to feel like you're making progress.[2]

Part 3
Giving the Right Impression

  1. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 12
    Practice other good listening skills. During the conversation, if you focus completely on what that person is saying, you can worry less about making eye contact correctly. Nodding, repeating important bits of information, using open body language, and other active listening skills are just as important to a conversation, if not more so, than good eye contact. To listen actively, it's important that you:
    • Sit forward in your chair
    • Nod along
    • Listen closely and repeat important information
    • Process what's being said
    • Don't just wait for your turn to speak
    • Respond accurately to what is said
  2. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 13
    Find a happy medium. When you are listening, you should have eye contact for 80% of the time and the other part should be short breaks and a little head movement to say without saying that you are listening. Be calm and don't over think it to keep things as natural as possible.
    • Avoid staring. Eye contact is good, but a dead-eyed, laser-locked gaze is just creepy. Stay relaxed and don't stare. Remind yourself that you are hoping to have a pleasant conversation with this person, and there will be no need to be anxious or worried.
  3. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 14
    Show eye magnetism. Try not to look away instantly when something else calls for your attention. If somebody calls you, don't look away as if you just got rescued from a boring conversation. Instead, slightly hesitate before looking at your caller.
    • Looking away then quickly looking back is also a good idea. Remember though, important disruptions such as dangerous or priority interruptions warrant instant attention.
  4. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 15
    Smile with your eyes. Keep your eyebrows relaxed, or your eye contact can look suspicious or intimidating, even if you're doing a good job remembering it. Try to keep your eyes open as much as possible, avoiding a squint, which can communicate that you dislike what the other person is saying, or a furrowed brow, which can communicate anger..
    • Go to the mirror and look at your eyes while you smile, and while you frown, or grimace. See the difference in what your eyes do? Practice keeping your eyes like you're smiling, even if you're not.
  5. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 16
    Always make eye contact in job interviews. Eye contact and good listening is especially important when you are at a job interview, but also any time you want to communicate attentiveness and respect. Potential employers might think that you're hiding something or you're not confident if you struggle to make eye contact, which can hurt your chances.
  6. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 17
    Make eye contact on dates. Eye contact communicates interest and respect, two things that you want to make sure you establish on any good date. When you're out with someone you're interested in, try making eye contact as much as possible. Windows to the soul.
    • Making eye contact can also be a great way of judging your partner's interest, but don't jump to conclusions. If you see your partner struggling to keep eye contact, it might be because they can't wait to go home, or because they're just as nervous as you.
  7. Image titled Look People in the Eye Step 18
    Make eye contact when you want to prove a point. If you're having an argument or other heated discussion, it can be tempting to want to avert your eyes. This communicates a lack of confidence, or a deferral to the person you're having the conversation with, which is something you hope to avoid. If you're in any kind of disagreement, locking eyes is an assertive gesture that helps you to communicate the confidence that what you say is true.[3]
    • If someone is trying to intimidate you, they want you to look away. Frustrate them by refusing. Stare right back.


  • You can practice by imagining the person's face while talking on the phone or chatting online.
  • If you can't maintain eye contact because you're bored, wait for a pause in the conversation and then change the topic.
  • Short but frequent eye contact is least likely to cause offense.
  • Use a polite excuse to withdraw from the conversation: "Oh, I didn't realize the time! I'm sorry; I have to dash off to an appointment. It's been so nice talking to you."
  • Imagine you are the other person who is already confident in making eye contact. Imagine how important it is for them to make sure who they are talking to, keeps good eye contact with them.


  • If you try the look-in-the-eyebrow-or-bridge-of-the-nose, make sure those are the only parts you are looking at. Do not dash your eyes around their face. It looks like you're staring at their blemishes, pimples, blackheads, burns, skin deformities, moles, etc.
  • Simply gaze at the other person's eyes; don't stare! Staring intensely will make you look phony, or worse, like an obsessed stalker! And remember, be confident!

Article Info

Categories: Speaking and Listening Skills