“I was sitting at the bar when he walked into the room and looked at me. I met his eye contact and smiled.”
My friend was asking how I had managed to attract the attention of a particular gentleman, and so I obliged her with a blow-by-blow of our meet cute.
“He approached the bar a few people down from where I was and ordered a drink. With drink in hand, he began to walk away from the bar and again glanced over at me,” I told her. “I met his gaze, smiled, and held eye contact until his stroll curved mid-direction. Suddenly he was walking toward me.” She laughed. I continued, “Eye contact and a smile were held until he was standing before me, reaching out his hand, and saying, ‘Hi. I’m Ben.’”
Aghast, she exclaimed, “You held eye contact with him the entire time?!”
My friend’s shock reminded me that, for many women, a look from a man they are attracted to leads, counterintuitively, to the impulse to look away. Maybe it’s because we fear that meeting eyes from across a room shows our cards too soon, thus leaving us vulnerable to rejection. Many women need to work hard to boost themselves up and remind themselves of their beauty and worth. A lot of that must happen within our hearts and minds, but we can take exterior steps towards building confidence by doing simple things, like making and maintaining eye contact, that affirm that men are, in fact, interested.
In my experience, the first way to let someone know you’re interested is to act interested. I know most women want the guy to make the first move, but try thinking of it from his perspective. Would you want to just walk up to someone who has not given you any reason to think she’s interested back? Guys dislike rejection as much as we do, so they look for signs that you might be open to their approach. In fact, men counsel other men on receiving eye contact. It is her cue, they say, that she wants him to talk to her. When a man enters a room, the first thing he’s looking for is a woman who will return his gaze. If you’re not giving him eye contact, he will not approach you.
Studies show that direct eye contact provides a lot of nonverbal information between two people. It breaks down barriers and allows others to see what you're thinking or feeling. When you give a person eye contact, they feel that you’re interested in them. In fact, one scientist actually succeeded in making two people fall in love in a laboratory: The participants sat face-to-face and answered a series of increasingly personal questions before staring silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. That’s right, four minutes of gazing into each other's eyes, and love blossomed in a laboratory, so what makes you think a quick five-second glance won't get you an introduction in a crowded bar?
Many women complain that it’s only ever men they are not interested in who approach them. But this may happen because it’s not as difficult for us to look a man in the eye with whom there is no attraction. Let’s face it, most of the time we are idly talking to this man hoping the one across the room will walk over and talk to us. Unless we confidently make eye contact with him (nonverbally revealing that we are open to communication), chances are he won’t walk over.
There’s no denying that holding eye contact with a man who strikes your fancy can feel unnatural, especially with a stranger. But with a little practice, you will be catching eyes all over the place and likely feeling pretty good about the whole thing, too. Here are three steps for catching a man’s eye naturally and confidently.
01. Mentally prepare for that uncomfortable feeling.
Even for a guy, making direct eye contact with a woman is difficult, especially with one he’s interested in. Women are the same way. We get nervous if a man we find attractive is looking at us. It’s hard to return his gaze. What we do not realize, however, is that feeling nervous is totally natural. It’s a moment of vulnerability and unspoken attraction. These tense exchanges are how chick flicks make their millions (not to mention the thing that sustains us throughout hours of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice). Who knew we were letting so many of these precious moments pass us by!
02. Hold his gaze for about five seconds.
It is only takes seconds. Think of all the things you have done in five seconds worth of time: Read this paragraph, eat a bite of a banana, laugh at a funny YouTube video. All it takes is courage to meet his gaze for a few seconds and you’ll immediately build your confidence—and his! In looking at him, you may realize he wants to look at you. Your shyness will lower a few notches and returning his gaze will be easier.
03. Look at him a second time.
Naturally, you will look away after you first lock eyes with him—and be sure you do because otherwise it can feel more intense than friendly. After you look down for another five seconds, look back. If you catch his gaze, hold the eye contact and smile. This simple, nonverbal action communicates to him that you are open to a conversation and friendly, to boot. It does not give away your inner feelings about him, nor does it expose your heart. It merely communicates to him that you would like him to come over and speak to you. Remember, too, that if he doesn’t look back, it isn’t because you are undesirable or hopeless with men. There are 101 reasons why a man might look away and then move on. If you look back and he's gone or distracted, don’t despair, because there will be other men with a pair of fine eyes and a steadfast stare.
These three steps are standard practice for me when I’m out and see a guy I wish would approach me. It’s a little thing, but it goes a long way in making me feel confident and empowered. And it almost always achieves its purpose. The more you practice them, the easier they will become. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and try it!