Eye to Eye on the dance floor

At some stage in our working lives I suspect everyone has been told about the importance of creating rapport with another person and has an awareness of at least some things that create or destroy rapport. The one thing that is commonly referred to is the need to have eye contact. The question is – what’s an appropriate level of eye contact?

Last week I found myself in a situation that was rather disconcerting. I was in a meeting with a man who stared. I think he’d been on a course where he was told to always maintain eye contact. The unfortunate thing was that his stare became more intense as his words and manner became more aggressive and personal. As the person on the receiving end of these behaviours it was totally unsettling to be in the same room as this man who obviously thought that eye contact and a smile meant he could say whatever he wanted and it would be OK. I found myself looking away from him, becoming agitated – I really wanted to escape.

Yes it’s important to have eye contact with someone if you want to establish a relationship. However, there is a balance between having eye contact and also moving your eyes away. Staring is not away of creating rapport – more often than not it creates discomfort for the person you are staring at.

Creating rapport is about connecting with another person, it’s about creating your very own dance together. This can be achieved by your body language, the expressions on your face, the tone of your voice, the language you use and your responsiveness to the person’s state.

Sometimes I find myself consciously thinking about the way my actions, my words, my level of eye contact are helping or hindering me build relationships; and at other times I forget to think about it. I hope that at these times it’s because I’m dancing the same dance on the same dance floor with the other person – step by step. For all of us I think the art of rapport comes when you know that the dance is happening. Part of the art is to also be aware and do something about it when you are attempting ballet and the other person is dancing the salsa.

Are you dancing?

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2 Responses to “Eye to Eye on the dance floor”


  1. 1 Chris Reay 19/04/2012 at 1:48 pm

    Yes, very good. “Managed eye-contact” and the “assertive handshake” always make me check where the emergency exits are!

    I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd lyrics from “Animals” …
    “After a while you can work on points for style,
    Like the club tie, the firm handshake,
    A sudden look in the eye and an easy smile.
    You have to be trusted …”

  2. 2 Greg.Wallace.Comixt 19/04/2012 at 5:48 pm

    Where should I look if I’m trying to do Salsa, yet the other person thinks I’m immitating a Rugby maul?


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