This is fascinating. From Josh Brahm:
The Washington Post reports something I’ve noticed in my dialogues with pro-choice people: “Forcing eye contact when trying to change someone’s mind may actually cause listeners to become more stubborn, a new study shows.”
In a persuasive context, people tend to be on the defensive, like when a speaker is addressing an audience or when two people are debating a political issue. According to the study, being forced to stare into the eyes of another person, as opposed to looking elsewhere, can make that person less open-minded.
You’re less persuasive when you make eye contact while you’re speaking, but I wonder if the rule against eye contact also applies to when you’re listening. I tend to look away from a person when I talk, but at him when I’m listening, because I instinctively assume I will be more persuasive when my listener is certain I’m hearing his side of things. But perhaps eye contact with him while I’m listening will also make him more defensive. I’ll have to consider this.