What to do about no eye contactHow's your eye contact? Do you come across as rude?

Ever feel like the invisible man or invisible woman?

At a recent Canadian engineering conference, participants were asked to share a frustrating situation in communicating across the generations and discuss ways to bridge the gap.

Don’t dis me

One engineer who happened to be from the boomer generation shared how lack of eye contact and lack of acknowledgment drives him nuts. He often has to submit plans to the city and he feels that their front desk personnel, who are for the most part millennials don’t know business etiquette and are downright rude.

Screening your calls?

We asked him for a specific example. He said, when he approaches the desk, they seldom acknowledge him by saying hello or stop what they’re doing to make eye contact. Instead, with eyes glued to their monitors they ask how they can help, all the while looking at their screens.

I’m a human being!

When we asked how he’s dealt with this situation in the past he said that he just glares at them or shouts at them “Hey, over here, I’m a human being!” Yikes! Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Not just millennials

The simple etiquette of acknowledging others is falling by the wayside and our reliance on technology is largely to blame. Most of us have suffered indifferent service provided by people from all generations, not just millennials. Sometimes we need to teach people, how to treat us.

Silent solution

As a group we brainstormed some possible solutions. The best advice I heard was to simply stand there in silence and wait until the person serving us looks up. When they finally do look up, give them an enthusiastic greeting and warm smile. Another tip is to underline it by commenting, “How refreshing it is to have someone make eye contact”.

Live longer and prosper

So rather than mirroring or compounding their bad behaviour, we model the behaviour we expect to receive. It may not work 100% of the time, but at least it will keep our blood from boiling and we’ll live longer. Most perceived acts of bad manners or rudeness are often unintentional. People don’t know what they don’t know. And if you are in a face2face situation, our advice is to look up from your screens.

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Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and good eye contactor

About the author 

Joanne Blake

Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

  1. I was recently at a Parks Canada Public Engagement Session, where a room full of angry people were meeting with the Park Superintendent and his supervisor. When asked to stand while he spoke, the superintendent said he would not be doing that. While people were expressing their concerns, neither the superintendent or his supervisor made eye contact — both were looking down at the table, though someone else was taking notes.

    Perhaps Parks Canada would benefit from your courses!

  2. How refreshing to hear your positive experiences with the University of Saskatchewan. They deserve applause for including essential soft skills in their curriculum.

  3. Last fall I attended a networking meeting hosted by the Edwards School of Business/College of Commerce for their Co-op Program students. The students and potential employers were able to meet and interact. I was impressed that they made eye contact, gave a firm handshake and did it with a smile. The best was that there was not one electronic device in sight. We learned later that they were schooled in these technics. I hope to hire one this coming January. What a great program at the University of Saskatchewan!

  4. Hi Joanne,

    Years ago I did a placement at The Bank of Montreal, now known as BMO.

    The Bank of Montreal had an excellent training program allowing me to acquire a great deal of skills that I have been able to transfer to my everyday life situations.

    One of many important skills that I learned back in the day was the importance of making eye contact with my clients’. Since I was a new trainee I was given a wide array of tasks to do. I was given the responsibility of working directly with customers face to face as a teller and when I wasn’t working with customers I was assigned a desk job. I was told by my supervisor who was a fabulous woman that when I was working at my desk it was very important that I looked up every so often to make sure that I acknowledged my customers waiting in line.

    Over the years I have changed careers a few times. I have found the importance of making eye contact whether it is a sales position or working with individuals in a factory setting, people like and need to be acknowledged. I find that that making eye contact is an essential skill when working as a team. It also allows one to recognize a coworker who may need a helping hand.

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