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The Eyes Have It: What You Need to Know About Eye Contact

There’s a lot you can learn from considering the phenomenon of eye contact.  Just a fraction of a second’s eye contact yields a huge amount of information that you can – and do – use as you communicate with your interlocutor.  Thinking about how this works, and why we’ve evolved to do it, can pay big dividends. Take a look at this picture of three women and consider the amount of information you get almost instantly just by looking at their eyes.  For just a little time invested you know a lot about if each person is happy or sad, if she’s anxious or if she’s at peace.

Eye contact is a big part of any conversation.  And as you absorb the information – the feedback – you get from eye contact while having that conversation, you’ll find that you make subtle course corrections in what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

This is a perfect, beautiful example of a feedback loop.  What is it that makes this feedback loop so successful?  In thinking about this, two things jump out at us.  First, it’s simple.  (On its surface, anyway.)  Your brain filters out extraneous information and focuses on certain vital cues which you’ve learned to watch for.  You’re not overloaded with feedback.  You’re fully focused on the other person’s eyes and what they’re doing with them. Second, it’s fast and it’s repetitive.

We don’t make eye contact once.  Rather, we maintain this feedback loop during our conversations. Why have we evolved this feedback loop?  Communication is among our most important human characteristics, and the ability to understand nonverbal cues is a big advantage.  What’s even more interesting to consider is how this feedback system’s simplicity and repetitiveness has allowed it to evolve to become so important to us.

What’s evolving in your organization?  Customer feedback initiatives are like anything else in corporate life.  If we’re not careful, these programs can become bloated and ineffective.  We suggest taking a page out of nature’s playbook and examining how you can use your customer feedback to give your organization “virtual eye contact” with lots of customers.

The big take-aways we see are those that have allowed eye contact to evolve into such an important part of who we are and how we communicate.



  • Keep it focused by concentrating only on those vital cues that drive results.  (For more ideas on this, read Choose One Thing.)

  • Find a system for streamlining the results so your employees don’t have information overload.  There are a variety of ways – including our software – to do this. Make it repetitive.

  • Ask for feedback and share it with your employee-facing customers regularly.



How we use eye contact to help us communicate is one of those great examples of nature accomplishing something very powerful with simple elegance.  We'd do well to emulate it.

About the Author: Max Israel is the founder of Customerville, a Customer Satisfaction Measurement Solution for Multi-unit Operators that can help you create happier customers and drive sales.

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