• Cory Morrison

What are some good eye contact strategies?

Updated: Jun 13

Making eye contact is a useful skill to have. People pick up on subtle non-verbal cues from the eyes that are important for communication. Many people naturally acquire this skill. People with autism, however, can find eye contact stressful.

Two men talk, making eye contact
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Verywellmind says that autistic people have higher brain activity when they process emotions. This different operating system means that eye contact could cause discomfort or even pain.

According to Otsimo, some people may consider no eye contact to mean little interest, a lack of empathy, or rudeness. As a result, some people may not understand autistic people.

How do you improve your eye contact if you are on the autism spectrum? HFA Today explores numerous strategies.

No stimulis

According to Hanen.org, activities where you talk to others without distractions, such as chasing or playing one-on-one games, are strategies to develop good eye contact. Toys, technology, or other objects a person may find fascinating can distract them too easily when they should focus on the person they socialize with.

When I was in elementary school, I would often have a hard time looking at teachers during lessons because visual stimuli in the classrooms such as calendars, pictures, or even something as plain as a coat area would distract me.

No long stares

A close up of a blue eye
(Photo Credit: Bacila Vlad on Unsplash)

Although eye contact is good, you also don’t want to overdo it. According to Everyday Health, one keeping their eyes on another person with no pauses can make a person feel uncomfortable and that one has violated their personal space.

Given that people on the spectrum may not understand social rules, they may not even realize when they’ve looked at someone for too long.

According to Michigan State University, it’s best to look at a person for no longer than four or five seconds, slowly glance at something else and then make eye contact again.

50/70 rule

If you still don’t know how much eye contact is too much or too little to ensure a healthy relationship, Verywellmind suggests using the 50/70 rule.

The 50/70 rule is where one makes eye contact 50 per cent of the time they speak and 70 per cent of the time they listen.

Try the nose

One tip a cousin gave me back in 2009 was to look at the person’s nose if I struggle with eye contact. This way, it at least looks like I make eye contact with the other person.

My cousin gave me this advice when he read an essay I wrote about autism. Eye contact difficulties were a part of this essay. I’ve often used this strategy when I interact with people ever since then.

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