Steve Jobs was known to have undeniable charisma and an intense presence. Part of what made him so powerful in the public eye was how he eyed the public -- he was a master of the eye contact. Whether in a board room of ten or at a product launch in front of thousands with cameras pointing at him, Jobs mesmerized with his eyes.
Yes, the eye contact is an expressive and effective form of communication, and Jobs used it to his full advantage probably better than any other high profile executive during his time on planet earth.
Michael Ellsberg, a researcher and author of the book The Power of Eye Contact, has spent years studying the habits of highly charismatic people such as Jobs. He says Jobs is famous for having a "Reality Distortion Field" (RDF) -- an aura of charisma, confidence, and persuasion, in which people report it almost impossible to avoid surrendering to the man and following his will when interacting face-to-face."
If you want to consider better eye-contact habits that you can leverage in business and relationships, Ellsberg suggests these winners:
Learn the Art of Personal Space
Your sense of "personal space" is the feeling you get of being "invaded" when someone steps over your personal boundaries (i.e., too much direct eye contact or someone facing you directly, touching your arm or shoulder, or raising his or her voice at you).
Ellsberg says to keep others from feeling uneasy in the same manners, try leaning back or standing back a little to increase their comfort. When you are physically close because it's a crowded room, try lowering your voice. When you pat someone on the back or touch their arm as you talk, try standing at an angle, not facing them directly.
Stay Present and Refocus
Ever made eye contact with someone in conversation, but soon realized the other person wasn't taking in a thing you were saying -- their mind was on another planet? It's what's referred to as the "pretend gaze."
In a world of short attention spans and constant stimuli from smart phones, Ellsberg suggests getting into the practice of noticing whenever your mind drifts somewhere else. Then, as you catch yourself drifting off, bring your attention back to whomever you're talking with at the moment. Since the pattern is hard to break, he suggests doing this for one week. The other person will truly appreciate it, as paying attention in this attention-deficit era will be a gift of true values to someone else.
Master the Soft Gaze
Ellsberg says in this Big Think clip that the kind of eye contact you want to have when you go into a job interview is neither too aggressive nor too weak. It's walking this perfectly confident middle line he calls a "soft gaze."
He warns to avoid those "Superman laser beams coming out of your eyes where you're really, really intensely focused." Instead, he says, "It's just like a soft focus--your interviewer's face is not sharply, sharply in focus; you're taking in your interviewer's whole face. It's a dance of eye contact where you are following their lead to a certain extent. They make a little eye contact, you make a little eye contact. They look away, you look away."
In my own experience talking to people or delivering keynote presentations, I've found a similar strategy to Steve Jobs that's been proven effective: Expressing emotion with my eyes.
This simple technique helps to establish a good communication path that connects with my listener or audience, as Jobs did. That means delivering your message with meaning by keeping your eyes focused, active and "alive." If you're happy, sad, surprised, excited or [insert your emotion here], show it with your eyes by matching the emotion to your words. Your intended listener will notice and engage the conversation on a deeper level.