I tend to think that social skills are, in general, overrated. Sure they help make parties less awkward, but I've made it this far without them—and so can you!
The main topic of today's conversation is eye contact. Generally, I avoid it. Not always intentionally—but when it's pointed out, I certainly become so conscious of it, I have a hard time looking anywhere in the vicinity of a person's eyes. And I don't think that's such a bad thing. Even if it is, I've gotten mighty good at explaining it away with excuses that make me feel less incompetent in social situations. I've included some below for your consideration.
A caveat: There's plenty to say that the right amount of eye contact in professional settings can help foster good relationships and growth and promotions and all that. But considering that most corporate (and even not corporate!) offices revolve around people staring at their computers 90 percent of the time, I suggest you try really hard when it counts and give yourself a break all other times. Here we go:
*You'd Rather People Earn Your Trust
* The Wall Street Journal reports that people who fail to make eye contact in the workplace seem untrustworthy, and for lack of a better term, shady. Sure, OK, but a quick spin turns that point into this: You're not untrustworthy—you're just asking to be wooed. Want to look into my eyes? Well you're going to have to work a little harder than that...
You're Already Intimidating Enough
If you're reading this, I'm going to go ahead and assume you're super motivated, organized, and just generally on your game. That scares people! And for good reason—they might work for you some day. To temper that, it's best to keep eye contact to a minimum; aforementioned WSJ story mentions that 10 seconds or more of eye contact at a time can seem super aggro. To be on the safe side, avoid entirely.
You Have Social Anxiety
Totally fine by me—you don't have to come out and say it. For this, I actually have a very good solution. When at parties (or anywhere you might need to talk to someone one-on-one) stare off dreamily into the distance and string together words that have no business being together in a sentence except to say that you're really grappling with the complexities of the world at large and isn't that really admirable? Basically just be really interesting. It's a good excuse for bad behavior most of the time.
Photo via Getty.
Not into eye contact? You can still be a happier, nicer person. Here's how.