It’s taught in Business 101: always maintain eye contact. However, a new study published in Psychological Science suggests that eye contact may make people more resistant to persuasion, especially when they already disagree.
Researchers used new technology that can track eye focus, and had participants watch a video of a speaker framing an argument on a controversial topic. The more time participants spent looking at the speaker’s eye, the less they were persuaded—unless they already agreed with the speaker’s position beforehand.
In a second experiment, half of the participants were told to look into the speaker’s eyes, and the other half were told to look at his or her mouth. Those who looked into the speaker’s eyes ended up being less open to a different view and less open to interacting with someone of the opposing view.
So with this in mind, perhaps only look people in the eye when you’re preaching to the choir.