When you walk into an important meeting, it's easy to get overwhelmed thinking about how the next 30 to 60 minutes are about to go. Making eye contact is a great way to set the tone right off the bat--and disguise any nerves you might have.
Unfortunately, finding the right dose of eye contact can be tricky. You don't want to lock eyes for too long, as if staring down your worst enemy. On the other hand, it's rude to constantly shift your focus away, suggesting you're more interested in the objects in the room than the people.
In a recent post on The Muse, Lily Zhang, a career development specialist at MIT, explored some tips for finding the right balance when it comes to making non-awkward eye contact. Here's what she suggested.
Set the right tone.
Use this trick when meeting someone for the first time. Upon greeting her, look her in her eyes just long enough to register what color her eyes are before looking away.
"For whatever reason, this amount of time feels natural--and effectively mimics those lucky non-awkward people who can do this instinctively," Zhang said.
Try the triangle trick.
While conversing, you can use this method to look interested and engaged the entire time. Picture an inverted triangle that acts as a perimeter around the person's main features. The points should encompass her eyes and mouth.
When talking with each other, move your gaze from one point on the triangle to another every five to 10 seconds. This will save you from--what feels like--the unnatural act of staring right into her eyes.
Practice makes perfect.
Even with these techniques, you might still feel gawky. In that case, you can ease yourself in with some practice. While you're talking, try to avoid distracting yourself with thoughts about eye contact . Instead, when she's talking, practice away.