Just How important is that First Eye Contact

Yes, Vancouver…summer is here. And with summer comes the most fun time of the year for dating. With so many great outdoor options, from a casual stroll down Robson, a hike around the seawall, or sea kayaking in Deep Cove…our options are almost endless.

But for most Singles, it hinges on the outcome of that first date. And often that will occur on the patio of a restaurant or café. Not too formal…not too long…but just right to get a sense of each other to decide if you both want to take it to the next level…the Second Date!

As a matchmaker, one of the most frequent questions I get is how to make a great first impression with some one that you feel could be a great match. Overall, it is important to be relaxed…and be yourself. That is really who you want the other person to get to know. You can do that by finding shared interests and leading the discussion into these areas. It also good to be aware of creating an equal balance, so asking open and non-threatening questions is always a great tip. We are all most comfortable when talking about things we love to do and have personal interest in.

But there is a great deal of research that points to the importance of eye contact, particularly in a new relationship. Too much…and that can feel intimidating and intense. Too little, and that sends a signal that you are disinterested.

So what do the experts say is just right?

I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago titled “Just look me in the eye already”, by Sue Shellenbarger. She quoted research conducted by Decker Communications in San Francisco, which found in a personal one-on-one conversation, eye contact was ideal in spurts of 7 – 10 seconds. That seemed just right to connect and signal interest and attention. Any longer than this risks being seen as “aggressive, empty or inauthentic”… and on a first date, even a bit creepy. The research also suggested that people who avert their gaze too soon, or avoid eye contact altogether are often seen as “untrustworthy, unknowledgeable and nervous”. Hmm…not ideal signals for a first date! But 7 – 10 seconds is usually just right.

A big turnoff on first dates that I regularly hear about is the person who put their smartphone on the table and can’t stop glancing at it every few seconds. Interestingly, most people who do this are largely unaware of the habit. So its best to check it before your date, and then just put it away. Don’t let your smartphone addiction sabotage your future!

And given the importance of establishing that frequent, non-aggressive eye contact…what about sunglasses? After a long winter, we West Coast folks are unaccustomed to the bright glare of sun. And squinting may not capture your good looks at their best. So I would recommend you wear your sunglasses on a patio date. But choose a pair that are not too dark, so your eyes are visible. And try to lift them up a few times as you talk to ensure you send the desired signals of interest.

So yes…eye contact is very important in establishing a connection. And with a little luck hopefully these tips will help you gaze into their eyes on a second date this summer!

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About the author

Jacquie Brownridge

Jacquie Brownridge is a professional Matchmaker and Managing Director of It’s Just Lunch Canada with offices serving Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and the Okanagan. A natural communicator and strong networker, it’s her job to get professionals from behind their computers and connecting with singles in their area over lunch, brunch or drinks after work. She works to minimize the stress and maximize the efficiency of the dating process. It’s Just Lunch is the world's largest non-internet dating service with over 100 locations and 19 years experience. Jacquie has appeared on Canada AM, Global News hour, Urban Rush and been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines including: Business in Vancouver, the Globe, and the Vancouver Sun. She and IJL Vancouver have been voted “Best Dating Service” by the Consumer Choice Awards for three years running and most recently the recipient of “Best of Vancouver” Award for Best Dating Service. An Alumna of the University of British Columbia (UBC) Jacquie has a background in Psychology and Business Development. Although known for her ability to bring people together, she has unparalleled business acumen. A lover of travel and the arts, Jacquie has a back ground in music including piano and dance. In her spare time she can often be found on the slopes of Whistler.