Hans Poppe is a trial lawyer in Louisville, Kentucky who, like me, is always interested in learning how to be a better advocate for our clients. He called my attention to an article about eye contact and it’s importance which I had not read before and which I recommend to you:
The article is entitled "How it works: Clinton’s ‘Reality Distortion Field’ charisma" and has a very interesting clip from the Bush Clinton presidential debate to illustrate his article. "Reality distortion field" refers to an aura of charisma, confidence and persuasion interacting face to face. The term was coined by Burrell Smith at Apple Computer to describe Steve Jobs’ charisma and ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything.
One writer referred to Clinton’s charisma as "making eye contact so deep that recipients sometimes seem mesmeri8zed." When meeting a line of people, Clinton would take the hand, make eye contact and as he moved on would look back at the per son he just met to "seal the deal."
The author of the article, Tim Ferriss, says the steps to learning how to improve your eye contact involve looking directly into the eyes of the other person long enough to identify their eye color with a neutral facial expression and soft gaze. Another step involves personal space. You determine the space that is "not in your face" but personal. The comfort zone, the author says, involves several factors: Making direct eye contact, Facing the other person directly, touching the other person and talking about the other person..
The author says you have to learn t he art of "being present." We have all experienced someone who was making eye contract with you, but wasn’t really listening to you. The idea is not to let your mind drift but focus on the present and the person you are talking with. Clinton, and other charismatic people, have the ability to make us feel like we are the only two people in the room.
The You-tube video with the article illustrates these points. When Bush is being asked a question he looks at his watch. When he tries to answer the question his eye contact is drifting and at random. He is unsure of the personal space to allow, first moving forward and then back. He reflects he is uncomfortable with the question. Clinton, on the other hand, walks several yards to get closer to the person asking the question. His eye contact is clear, unwavering and calm.
The subject should be of interest to all of us since lawyers are the worst listeners in any professional field. Concentrating on the person you are dealing with and using these ideas should help you to be a more persuasive lawyer. Thank you to Hans for the information.