Whether walking through corporate hallways, participating in a meeting or having dinner with friends, we are surrounded by everyone with their heads down in the “smartphone prayer.” Are we losing the ability to connect, engage and trust?
We sprint through our day, shooting off email after email, running from meeting to meeting and posting messages via social media, hoping all of these messages stick and influence action. While living in a world of noise where we receive messages 24/7, it is easy to overlook the importance of connecting, engaging and building trust with our listeners to be influential Monday to Monday.
It is impossible to influence others to take action without building trust. Your listeners need to be certain that you truly care about what is important to them before they will follow your lead. This is accomplished through eye connection.
Eye connection goes beyond eye contact. Instead, look at an individual’s eyes and focus 100 percent on that person for a full sentence. When speaking in a group -- even to a large audience -- you continue eye connection by looking at one individual’s eyes for a full sentence before moving on to the next person for a full sentence. You only speak when you see eyes. No eyes, no talk. (Now, that’s tweetable!)
Every time you look away from your listener, pause. If you continue to talk when you look away, you disconnect with your listeners. When you spend most of your time not looking at your listeners, you cannot read them. This prevents you from adapting your message to their needs. Once you try eye connection, you will understand the huge difference between scanning and connecting for a full sentence.
Eye connection is the primary delivery skill that builds trust. Scanning your listeners or looking away mid-sentence creates the perception that you are untrustworthy.
Research by two New York University psychologists found eye contact creates the illusion of mimicry, the subconscious imitation of another’s facial expression, posture and actions, suggesting eye contact is a truthful reflection of another’s intent.
Maintaining eye connection signals to listeners that you are 100 percent focused on them and their needs. No matter how busy you are, the reputation you have built communicates to others that you care and are interested in their needs. When you are focused with your eyes, you are focused in your thoughts.
Eye connection is the only delivery skill that conveys trust and believability, research has found. Without this influence skill, you increase the risk of not creating or maintaining a relationship with your listeners. If they do not trust you as a partner, leader or motivator, they will never be influenced to take action based on your message.
Begin practicing today these techniques to create a new and powerful skill for building trust:
- When speaking to two or more people, complete one sentence or thought per person.
- Take your time and pause when you move your eyes from one person to the next.
- Only speak when you are connecting with your listeners’ eyes. Avoid the temptation to speak to your notes, iPhone, your listeners’ shoulders, the top of their heads or your PowerPoint slides.
Speaking to a large group
When speaking to a group of 30 or more, you may not be able to see everyone’s eyes because of the lighting or the way the room is set up. Select an area to focus on where individuals are sitting. Stay connected with them for a complete sentence or thought. The individuals who are sitting within that area will believe you are connecting with them personally.
When having a one-to-one conversation, you will tend to connect with your listener longer than in a group setting. To avoid an uncomfortable stare, look away periodically to give you and you listener a break. You may want to refer to your notes, visual aids, sales aids, etc. Make sure you pause when you look away from your listener.
This week begin building trust by taking action on these steps:
1. Feedback. Ask someone in your personal and professional life to let you know when you are talking but not looking at them. Practice pausing when you look away from your listener.
2. Video record. To experience what your listeners experience, video record yourself. We have the technology to make this happen. For example, in your office while on the phone, record yourself on an iPad or a smartphone. If you are leading webinars, many of these services have the capability to record. Are there opportunities for you to record yourself when you are facilitating a meeting or delivering a presentation?
Without watching yourself through a video playback, there is a strong possibility that you are evaluating what you do with your eyes through how it feels rather than by what others actually see.
3. Daily practice. Be aware of making eye connection when you are in these situations:
- In meetings
- In face-to-face and virtual conversations
- While visiting with family or friends
Make a note to remind yourself during these conversations to focus on eye connection.
When you are in a meeting or face-to-face conversation, make sure you pause when you refer to your notes. Give your ideas only to the eyes of your listeners.
When you are speaking on the phone, focus your eyes on objects in the room. Use the object to complete a sentence or thought. When you practice, by slowing down eye movement and staying focused for a complete sentence or thought, the more immediate your new habit will be.
Having influence Monday to Monday is more difficult than ever because of the many messages you and your listeners receive every day. Your listeners’ to-do lists never seem to end, making it difficult for them to focus and stay connected with you and your message.
Eye connection allows you to conduct a conversation with your listeners that is purposeful and builds trust, no matter the distractions. Keeping your listeners’ attention is a powerful skill. Doing so allows them to clearly understand your requests, eliminate doubt in their mind and spur them to take action.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors