You walk up to another professional at a networking event and introduce yourself. You reach out your hand in the common gesture and give a firm handshake. You’re dressed to the nines and have on your best smile.
Bob, whom you just met, is also dressed to impress and shook hands firmly. You both look as though you could be the CEO of any organization represented at the event. You think you and Bob are going to become fast friends. But…
Then you notice something strange about Bob. No, he doesn’t have a piece of food in his teeth. He doesn’t smell. He even has great posture. What Bob doesn’t do, though, is look at you in the eyes. He does not make eye contact.
Someone else walks up to the two of you and introduces herself. You pay close attention and notice Bob doesn’t make eye contact at Janine either. After a few more minutes of talking, you discover Bob is not employed and is looking for a position at a company in your field. Unfortunate for Bob, he probably won’t get a job because he won’t make eye contact.
“Look at me and make eye contact,” you say to yourself. If he would simply make eye contact, you would be able to get to know him and refer him to that open position in your company. Too bad for Bob.
Have you ever met someone like this? I’ve met many. Interestingly, very few of these people have been in high-level positions within their companies. Most start at lower levels and stay there. If someone can’t make eye contact, it give an air of mistrust. And, mistrust does not lead to promotions. It’s unfortunate but true.
I’ve also seen people who seem to like staring contests. That gets uncomfortable too. Don’t do either. Find a comfortable balance between making eye contact and looking away. It’s okay to look away but quickly look back. Be sure not to appear more interested in something other than the person to whom you’re talking.