To Look, or Not to Look: Eye Contact Guide for Introvert Developers Using Visual Dominance Ratio VDR

Rule of Eye Contact Behaviour in Networking

Edited photo from my favourite show Sesame Street
  • Talk to to your lead/customers
  • Talk to your peers
  • Talk to strangers

What is “VDR” and how to compute it

“VDR” stands for visual dominance ratio which is a concept in psychology used to quantify eye contact behaviour in an interaction which introduced by Dovidio and Ellyson.

Three common scenarios

1. Talk to your lead/customers

Set a low VDR (<0.80) by maintaining eye contact most of the time while listening and look at other places sometimes when you are talking. The reason is that when speak to high status individuals, for example, your lead/customers/mentor/supervisor, you would like to show your respect. Psychologically, looking at him or her while they are speaking conveys the message that I value your insights and I believe they are important.

2. Talk to your peers

Generally, it would be appropriate to have a VDR around 1.00 on average when speak to peers and colleagues. You also could adjust the VDR by the relationship of you two. The more you are familiar with him, the less necessary in eye contact.

3. Talk to strangers

Try to maintain eye contact for 70%~80% of the time while listening and 50% of the time while speaking. Once you establish eye contact, hold it for 3~5 seconds. It helps to display your interest, curiosity and confidence. It also makes people feel that you are humble, friendly and pleasant.

  • Negotiating the price
  • Conversation in a big meeting room vs in an elevator
  • Dating: you want to play hard to get /easygoing
  • Request: asking for help
photo credit to sesame street

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