March 2, 2023
6 min read
Avoiding awkward eye contact when you talk to people isn’t always easy. But the triangle method can help.
Eye contact is critical when you’re giving a speech, in a job interview, on a first date, or testifying before a grand jury. In other words, all the time.
But, awkward eye contact is a thing, right? You might feel like you’re staring with an intensity that belongs in a police interrogation. Perhaps you’re afraid your gaze will come across as all starry-eyed romantic when you’re just trying to update your boss with the latest progress report.
A fixed stare isn’t the answer. Neither is looking away. The triangle method to the rescue! Learn what the triangle method is, how it works, and why you should use it.
Essentially, the triangle method is a way to make “normal” eye contact with someone without intense or creepy staring. It’s an excellent way to avoid awkward eye contact while still making a positive connection and expressing respect and confidence.
Communication experts talk about two variations of the triangle method: professional and personal. Let’s take a look at each variation. (You’ll see why it’s important to use the right one for the situation!)
Imagine a triangle. Now imagine it on someone’s face. The base of the triangle spans from their right eye to their left eye. The triangle’s point is between their brows or mid-forehead. (Yes, this is how Pythagoras saw people, obvs.)
Now, focus on one of their eyes. Then, follow the triangle’s base across to focus on their other eye. Next, follow the triangle upward to focus on the area of their brows or mid-forehead. Hold your focus for a few seconds in each spot. (Body language expert Sharon Sayler refers to the duration as a “long glance.”) Repeat the process throughout the conversation.
I know what you’re thinking. This is supposed to be about making conversations less awkward. And, this seems awkward. Fear not. With a bit of practice, the triangle method will become second nature, and you’ll do it automatically.
Don’t feel like you need to keep the triangle method going nonstop. It’s natural and good to look away briefly at times. Usually, this coincides with gathering and organizing your thoughts, which is always a good idea.
To practice the personal triangle method, flip the triangle over. Imagine an upside-down triangle. Now imagine it on someone’s face. The base of the triangle spans from their right eye to their left eye. The triangle’s point is on their mouth. (Yes, this is how Euclid saw people, obvs.)
Now, focus on one of their eyes. Then, follow the triangle’s base across to focus on their other eye. Next, follow the triangle downward and focus on their lips. Hold your focus for a few seconds in each spot (a “long glance”). Repeat the process throughout the conversation.
Just like the professional triangle method, this will become automatic with practice. Similarly, it’s fine to get off the triangle loop and look away briefly now and then.
Be aware that the personal triangle method is often considered to be flirtatious. The potentially seductive nature of the personal triangle method is evident in the way it differs from the professional method: the trip that your eyes take to their lips.
So, if you intend to flirt, this technique is for you. Otherwise, you might want to skip the lips and stick with the professional triangle method. Again, it’s all about avoiding the awkward. Your body language, speech, and general demeanor all together communicate your overall message and intentions.
You know what it’s like when someone you’re conversing with doesn’t look at you “enough.” It might seem as though they’re not listening or interested. Perhaps you feel like the conversation doesn’t matter much—or that you don’t matter much.
Let’s say that you’re interviewing someone for a job and they don’t make much eye contact. That can make them come across as though they don’t have much self-confidence or that they’re not taking the process seriously.
Regardless of the situation, eye contact is important. So, consider the triangle method to be a must. That’s because avoiding eye contact and awkward eye contact aren’t good options. Good, appropriate eye contact is the goal, and the triangle method can get you there.
Why is eye contact important? When you’re talking to someone, it makes a big difference whether or not you’re actually connecting with them. Eye contact is a major part of hat connection. It portrays likability and warmth, and it communicates respect, interest, and confidence.
Whether you’re speaking conversationally one-on-one or addressing a vast audience, eye contact is important for those reasons: connection, likability, trust, interest, and confidence. It’s a good idea to get a gauge on how much you use eye contact. It’s also wise to practice making eye contact and using the triangle method.
Yoodli’s AI-powered speech coach allows you to assess and practice your eye contact skills. Here’s how:
You’ll notice that Yoodli evaluates much more than your eye contact. It analyzes your pacing, pauses, and other aspects of delivery. Yoodli also assesses elements of word choice, such as repetition, filler words, and weak words. You also get a time-stamped transcript of your speech and a video you can watch back.
Click on the Coach Comments, and you’ll see a handy list of follow-up questions that your speech raises. The speech coach also provides a summary of your main ideas and suggested rewordings. See the full analysis of a sample speech here. (If the analytics aren’t visible, click on the Insights link at the top right to bring them into view.)
If you had just recorded a speech that you want to improve and deliver again, you can see how the Yoodli AI speech coach provides serious support in a matter of seconds.
Eye contact is an important aspect of communication. But, it doesn’t just matter that you use it; it matters how you use it. The triangle method is an excellent way to make eye contact in a less awkward and intense way.
Here’s a quick summary of both triangle methods:
Practice these techniques until they become second nature. Now you’re equipped to avoid awkward eye contact and connect in a more natural way.
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.