“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America …”

Have you ever wondered why we all stand in unison, hand over our hearts, eyes locked onto the American flag? Every gesture and behavior performed during the pledge, well, aside from verbally saying the chant, are nonverbal cues of expression.

Similar to the attraction formed during this unison pledge, maintaining eye contact with people instead of an immobile flag increases the affinity between individuals.

A chairman and director wrote five years ago that those who maintain more eye contact are perceived as “warmer and personable, attractive and likeable, more qualified, skilled, competent and valuable, more trustworthy, honest and sincere, more confident and emotionally stable” in their training journal article “The art of Communication.”

So the next time you go to The Sherman for a family reunion, you may want to keep in mind that making just the right amount of eye contact may actually influence your grandmother into giving you the allowance you have been asking for.

You may be thinking about how easy this task sounds. Almost as though that allowance you have been waiting for is a simple step away. Although maintaining eye contact with someone may seem easy, holding that gaze and knowing when to stop can be difficult.

For instance, think about sitting in a room filled with 25 people, all of whom are around the same age as you, and having to stand up in front of them to present a speech. This may sound familiar to many students, particularly high school students enrolled in a speech course.

Some advice any speech teacher may offer, including Batesville High School English teacher Rose Lacey, includes that maintaining eye contact with individuals when faced with pressure can be difficult, so understanding the importance of relaxing, but also being mindful is critical not only for the presenter, but for the audience as well. Powering through and meeting your audience’s gazes will lead to an increased connection between you – the speaker – and the audience.

An average time of 3-5 seconds would be ideal in any presentational setting, wrote a virtual communications coach in her journal article “The Number One Secret for Giving a Great Presentation.”

Similarly, this connection can be applied to job interviews. Whether you are applying to the many fast food restaurants, local pizza joints, grocery store or any retail business in Batesville or elsewhere, you will always have some sort of interview to attend.

As you sit in the room with your hopefully future boss, knees shaking beneath the table, heart racing, and your hands sweating, you may find yourself stumbling upon the tendency to forget about the most crucial aspect of communication. Yes, you guessed right. Eye contact is the main focus professionals look at when interviewing someone.

The cue displays confidence and professionalism and serves as a connecting point between you, a potential worker bee, and your soon-to-be boss. The more eye contact held during an interview, the more attracted an authoritative figure will be to your qualities and what you have to offer the workplace.

Moving on from the small-town vibe of Batesville, knowing the ways in which various cultures perceive eye contact is critical to ensure a safe and comfortable vacation to Eastern countries. A short six years ago, six scholars from around the globe conducted a study testing the differing views on eye contact between Western and Eastern cultures. Rather than finding someone who held a consistent gaze as “warmer and personable,” Eastern cultures found them “angry and disrespectful” in their research article “Attention to eye Contact in the West and East: Autonomic Responses and Evaluative Ratings.”

All in all, regardless of the setting, eye contact will continue to remain significant worldwide as long as humans exist.

Rebecca Mustaine studies psychology at Ball State University. Email her at rmmustaine@bsu.edu.

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