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July 31, 2014

Don’t Make Eye Contact When Negotiating, Study Says

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Don’t Make Eye Contact When Negotiating, Study Says

A new study counters a popular belief that if you want to influence someone, make direct eye contact. Researchers from Harvard, the University of British Columbia, and University of Freiberg say that direct eye contact could actually have an opposite effect and hamper your ability to persuade others. 

The researchers used eye-tracking technology to track eye movements in several persuasion situations. The researchers found that the more time participants spent looking into a speaker’s eyes, the less persuaded they were by the speaker’s argument. 

The researchers also found that if your audience is already skeptical about your argument, looking them directly in the eye will reinforce their skepticism and also make them less likely to interact with others who express your views. 

“While eye contact may be a sign of connection or trust in friendly situations, it’s more likely to be associated with dominance or intimidation in adversarial situations,” says Julia Minson, co-lead researcher with Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “It might be helpful to keep in mind that trying to maintain eye contact may backfire if you’re trying to convince someone who has a different set of beliefs than you.”

Source: “Study: Making Eye Contact Is Not an Effective Way to Persuade,” Forbes (Oct. 21, 2013)

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