In this article, we take a closer look at something we are ALL conditioned to do more of in conversation … Looking someone squarely in the eye! But how much eye contact is ordinary conversational interest, and how much MAY mean a whole lot more interest than casual chat? Of course there are lots of different subtle cues that signal something is brewing beneath the surface, but eye contact can be a simple "tell" that clues you in quicker than just about ANYTHING else. Read on as we explore in a bit more detail below.
Sustained eye contact can be (especially when combined with other bodily cues) an obvious signal of interest and attraction. However, there may be certain situations where an intense gaze leaves you wondering, and the exact intentions a bit more ambiguous than ordinary. For example, if a man stares a woman in the eyes in a business situation, but he stares overly hard into her eyes, is there any possibility he likes her? Or is it simply an intimidation technique reserved for the boardroom? We must examine the context of the situation and the accompanying gestures.
If a scenario such as this occurs in, say, a classroom or a business meeting, it may only indicate that the man is extremely interested in what the woman is saying. As mentioned in the Personal vs. Professional Differences section, look for indications like turning part of his body away from the woman or references to the professional nature of the encounter. If these aspects are present, you can assume interest in communication only.
If they are absent, however, then there is a distinct possibility of romantic interest. In order to make a final determination, she will need to watch for other nonverbal signals of interest as discussed throughout the chapter.
The same rules can apply to a guy who always stares at a young woman in her school hallways, but never says hi. She may be unsure whether he likes her. It could be that he's just too shy and reserved to approach her or he might just be a naturally curious gawker. They are out there! How does she tell the difference? Again, by watching for other nonverbal cues that indicate romantic interest or by non-verbally returning and encouraging his interest to see if he takes things a step farther. Keeping all of these things in mind will keep uncomfortable situations to a minimum, and keeping your ego planted firmly on the plus side of the self esteem street!