Eye Contact With Americans

Posted On: July 4, 2015

Making eye contact in face-to-face encounters (video-con or Skype) is crucial to building trust with Americans.

While in some cultures, a downward gaze may signify deference and respect, to Americans, this same downward gaze could signify any one of these traits:

    • A lack of confidence  
    • Untrustworthiness  
    • Unfriendliness or rudeness  
    • Shyness, a lack of initiative  
    • Not caring  
    • Not paying attention or being uninterested
    • Not listening  


I often share tips in my coaching seminars on the appropriate ways to make eye contact to build trust and friendship with Americans. The below infographic shows some tips on where in the face to make eye contact for different kinds of gazes. Please avoid the ‘intimate gaze’ with colleagues.


Dos and Don'ts of Eye Contact

Dos and Don’ts of Eye Contact

Many Indians ask me, “I can make eye contact, but how do I know I am not staring?” This is a great question. Read the below infographic for details on this. I find their advice to be quite accurate.

Tips on Eye Contact in Various Settings

Business Meetings, 1 to 1 Interactions

In the video, I talk about the three type of “gazes” to consider when interacting with people in general. Which are the two I recommend for business interactions? Which type do I suggest you should avoid under all circumstances? 



Keep in mind that eye contact is important not only in one-to-one conversations, but in presentations. In a presentation it’s imperative for the presenter to scan the audience frequently to “look at” with all or as many people as possible. Making eye contact with the audience keeps them engaged and responsible to pay attention. They will also feel more compelled to pay attention as they know you are paying attention to them! The two types of eye contact I suggest using in business interactions work in a similar fashion in presentations of most sizes. Making eye contact with all audience members increases engagement exponentially. If it’s hard to understand, turn the situation around and think of being an attendee in a presentation. Do you feel more interested, engaged or even awake when the presenter looks at you once in awhile?


The Audience

If you are an audience member in a presentation or work-related meeting with twenty people or less, it’s important to make eye contact with the presenter. If someone answers a question, look in the direction of the person talking. If you ask a question, you are like a mini-presenter, try to look at everyone while talking to engage everyone. 


Virtual Meetings

Knowing where to look can be a little challenging when in video con-calls. I talk more about this in the video embedded in this post, starting from the 12 minute 15 second mark.


Jennifer Kumar provides tailored coaching and training to executives and professionals in India working with Americans. Role plays and analysis of situations (detailing the dos and don’ts of non-verbal communication with Americans and the reasons behind it), are the hallmark of the one-to-one, small group and larger group training sessions. Please contact Jennifer for more information.

Related Links:
Using English to Express Initiative
Using Tone of Voice to Express Initiative
Original post date July 15, Updated with video, May 2020


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