"My children don't look me in the eye when I'm talking to them!" Is Eye Contact important?

Eye Contact is just one of the four key problems children have when it comes to creating a good first impression, at least here in the UK.

What does it mean to have good eye contact?

It means looking someone straight in the eye when you are talking to them. When I meet my younger students for the first time, I always smile, look them in the eye, introduce myself and try to shake their hands. Ninety-nine percent of the time they are looking down, they do not introduce themselves, they give a half-hearted handshake and start mumbling.

By the end of the tutorial, they are looking at you straight in the eyes, smiling, introducing themselves confidently, whilst offering a firm handshake. You can see how happy and pleased they are with themselves. Twenty handshakes later and a few 'handshake and introduction' games during the tutorial, the whole process becomes almost second nature. I say 'almost' because it shouldn't end here - the children should practise at home; meeting and greeting at least one of their parents every morning, every day after school, and in the evening. The 3 main things to look out for: a genuine smile, good eye contact and a firm handshake.

"Good morning mummy/daddy, how did you sleep?"

or "Good morning, my name is .......... It's really nice to meet you!"

In the afternoon after school:

"Good afternoon, mummy/daddy, how was your day?"

In the evening:

"Good night mummy/daddy. I hope you sleep well. Thank you for ......!"

After a while, smiling, shaking hands correctly and looking people in the eye on meeting and greeting will truly become second nature.

The first question children ask me is 'Where should I look?'

You certainly don't want to be staring at people when you meet them or are talking to them. The best way to avoid this is by looking in the space between the eyes, nose and mouth, not at the ground or your surroundings. And always remember to blink. It all may seem a bit weird at first, but it is the best way to show people you are friendly and it also lets others know you are listening to everything they are saying. Wandering eyes shows you are not paying attention and it's rude. How would you like it if someone were looking around the room, at their watch or looking down while you

were talking. Also when meeting people if you are looking at the ground you may be perceived as shy and lacking in confidence.

However, some cultures are much less eye-oriented than others. In China, for instance, when speaking with adults, children will avoid such direct eye contact out of respect. In Japan, Korea and Thailand, prolonged direct eye contact is considered impolite and even intimidating.

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