Eye Contact as a Form of Communication
Eye contact is one of our main forms of communication and is one of the most important methods of non-verbal communication.
Did you know that you can communicate to a complete stranger that you’re in trouble simply by making eye contact with them and feeling uneasy about a situation?
Similarly you can tell someone you’re romantically interested in them by looking at them in a flattering manner - as long as you're not staring! If you’re talking to someone and his pupils are dilating, it normally means he’s visually stimulated to what he’s looking at.
During a conversation, maintaining good eye contact shows that you’re listening and being an active participant in the conversation even if you aren’t verbally speaking.
The eyes can tell you when someone is lying and trying to deceive you. Neuro-linguistic research shows that when someone looks up and to their right, they are constructing an image in their head from scratch, and therefore lying.
Other deceitful eye cues are when someone blinks rapidly or when someone closes their eyes for long periods of time while telling you something.
Here's an article about detecting lying through eye contact cues: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-tell-someones-lying-by-watching-their-face-2016-1
Different Elements of Eye Contact
There are different elements to eye contact.
Eye contact has physical elements such as the pupils, eyeball, lashes, and brow. It also has elements such as eye contact duration, intensity, motion, and depth.
Each of these elements plays a crucial role in eye contact.
Raising your eyebrows typically shows surprise, shock, or disapproval depending on context.
Fluttering your eyelashes draws attention to the eyes and signals sexual or romantic interest in the person she is making eye contact with.
Holding eye contact with someone for a long duration can signify you want to talk to them. Similarly making eye contact with someone, looking away, and then glancing back at them generally also signifies that you want to talk with them.
Prolonged, intense eye contact can mean that you really hate someone and have an deep anger towards them.
Eye Contact and Moods
Eye contact can tell you a lot about another person’s mood. Have you ever looked at someone and could quickly tell what they were feeling? This is because the eyes can tell you another person’s mood; whether they’re sad, happy, angry, aroused, surprised, or scared.
It’s easy to tell when someone is sad - their eyes and eyelids are droopy, saggy and baggy. The eye balls might be glazed over from crying or tearing. Their eyes might have a distant or empty look to them. The person might avoid eye contact and lose focus in their eyes easily.
Conversely, you can tell when someone is in a good mood. Their eyes are big, wide open and taking everything in. There’s squinting and crow’s feet wrinkles in the corners from smiling so much. Their cheek bones are raised. There’s a fire inside their eyes.
Avoidance of Eye Contact for Self Defense
The eyes do a whole lot for us. And they can also be used to protect yourself in self defense.
The best eye contact for self defense can be no eye contact.
Avoidance of eye contact with a suspicious or dangerous person is generally the best method of self defense.
Since eye contact is normally used for communication, any eye contact with a dangerous person may initiate unnecessary communication with him. He may interpret your glance as an invitation to initiate conversation or become aggressive with you.
Intentional, Strong Eye Contact for Self Defense
Conversely, in some situations, intentional eye contact with a potential aggressor may keep you protected.
Confident, assertive, strong eye contact shows the assailant that you’re not going to be intimidated or an easy victim.
Deliberate and targeted eye contact shows a potential attacker that you acknowledge his presence and will be aware of his actions.
Eye Contact for Self Defense: Avoidance vs. Intentional
So which is it?
Should you avoid eye contact to not initiate unnecessary communication with a dangerous individual?
Or should you make intentional eye contact to confidently deter a potential aggressor?
In general, if the person doesn’t pose a physical threat, you should avoid eye contact altogether. However if the individual poses an imminent physical threat, you should initiate strong eye contact to deter him.
We broke it down by potential aggressors in this chart:
Eye Contact to Bystanders for Self Defense
Finally, eye contact can be used in self defense to signal to a bystander that you need help.
If there is a suspicious man talking to you on the bus, and you see a couple of young gentlemen sitting close-by, look at them and use your eye contact to communicate that you’re uncomfortable.
The bystander may come over, pretend like he knows you, and sit with you or invite you to sit with him. Or at the very least, he will be aware of your situation and if the situation were to escalate, he would be more inclined to intervene.
Even making eye contact with someone who’s not physically able to help you, like an old man, will still be beneficial to your situation. If a suspicious man is talking to you on the bus and making you feel uncomfortable, and there is only an elderly man sitting near you, if you make eye contact with him, at least there is another party now involved in the situation. Maybe he can’t physically intervene and help but he can call others to help or call the police.
Eye Contact: An Important Tool for Self Defense
Eye contact is a great self defense tool everyone can use. This applies to young, healthy females as well as older, less fit men, and everyone in between. Eye contact is one of our most powerful forms of communication. You can use it to tell someone you’re listening to them, or you can use it to warn a potential aggressor that you’re a confident individual and won’t be an easy target.
If all else fails, eye contact with a bystander will alert them to your dicey situation. In today’s society, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help from others if we need it. Most people are compassionate and will try to help. If everyone intervened when they could, we wouldn’t have things like the “bystander effect”, where even though there are many people who can help, no one does because they assume someone else will help. Instead, we should all aim to live by the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”