Eye contact is crucial for social interaction and maintaining a conversation but when we are unsure, defensive or preoccupied making eye contact is hard. Poor eye contact is associated with lying, shyness, and discomfort. Some children avoid eye contact and need to be taught the skill. Many adults need help developing this aspect of their non-verbal communication. Activities that work on building eye contact help improve communication and trust between individuals, bring groups together, and improve presentation and interview techniques.
Eye contact between carer and child is essential for developing a bond and teaching children how to interact socially with others. Playing games like peek-a-boo help improve eye contact skills. Hide and emerge from behind furniture or other people and when the child makes eye contact reward them with a sweet or words of encouragement. Pass a ball or toy up and down so the child follows it with their eyes, then hide it behind your head to encourage the child to look at your face. Wink or make a funny face so your child copies you, encouraging them to look into your eyes. Older children can have a staring contest with the loser being the first to break eye contact.
Have the group sit or stand in a circle, facing inward. Everyone looks across the circle and when two people make eye contact they call out each other’s name and slowly move to switch places, maintaining eye contact all the time. One they have switched the participants must find another person to make eye contact with. Children can sit in a circle and take turns looking at the person sitting next to them. Children describe the eye colour, eyebrows and hair colour of their partner.
Have a group leader or facilitator talk to a group about a specific topic while avoiding looking at anyone in the group. The person should continue talking until someone addresses the issue or notices the problems associated with lack of eye contact. Point out the problem if no one notices it, and move on to discuss the importance of eye contact and how it can improve communication in groups.
Making eye contact is an important aspect of successful public speaking. Presentations can fail when the speaker doesn’t look at the audience and hold their eye contact. Ask participants to write a one-paragraph answer to a generic question such as “what are your best qualities?” then mark important words or phrases in their script. As participants read their scripts to a partner they should make eye contact when they come to a highlighted word or phrase. Next, students present their script to a group, again making eye contact with a member of the audience when they come to an important point.
- Working With Others: Why eye contact is so important
- National Literacy Trust: Strengthening the bond between you and your child
- The Great Western Hospital: Eye contact
- Creative Youth Ideas: Icebreakers: Eye contact
- Leeds Community Healthcare: Eye contact ideas for older children
- Social Skills Activities
- Publications of the Japan Association for Language Teaching: An eye contact workshop