The Power of Eye Contact: 
How It Can Deter and Inflame

Eye contact contains an underestimated power that can greatly impact our interactions. It has the potential to deter others from engaging with us, but it can also fuel someone's anger. As women, understanding how to use eye contact to better ensure personal security is key. In this article, we will explore various ways eye contact can benefit our interactions and also when eye contact can put us in more danger. 

The Benefits of Eye Contact:
In some situations, eye contact shows confidence, assertiveness, and serves as a non-verbal tool for communication. Realize that these examples do not include every possible outcome of every situation, sometimes eye contact will have zero effect on someone's actions. That is where not putting oneself in a dangerous situation comes into play. But when we are strictly speaking of eye contact, here are the general key advantages in small snippets:

Assertiveness and Confidence:
Maintaining eye contact can display strength and confidence, deterring potential threats. For instance, in a dimly lit street, direct eye contact with an approaching person can signal that you are aware and unafraid, making you less likely to be targeted. Someone who wishes to attack another will most likely choose a target who is distracted by her phone or who is not paying attention. In this situation, we question why a woman would be alone at night on a dimly lit street. It shows that decisions were made that potentially led her into an even more dangerous situation. Ideally, a woman would be able to walk alone anywhere and be safe - but that is not reality. We have seen time and time again the news stories of women being attacked by strangers while walking alone somewhere.  

Awareness and Observation:
By making eye contact, we can gather crucial visual cues from others. By observing their body language, we can pick up on signs of discomfort, agitation, or potential aggression. Paying attention to their facial expressions can reveal emotions such as anger, fear, or deception helping us identify suspicious behavior or potential threats. 

A caveat to this is that there needs to be a balance between discreetly observing others and staring. Avoid making prolonged eye contact that might make others uneasy or provoke confrontations. The goal is to gather information without drawing attention to ourselves, so we can better ensure our personal safety. 
Establishing Boundaries:
Meeting someone's gaze with assertive eye contact can be effective in setting boundaries, but it's important to make sure our body language matches our intention to reject the unwanted attention. Without the right body language cues, others might misinterpret our assertive eye contact as flirtation. This will potentially lead to misunderstandings and a very uncomfortable situation.

If we do use assertive eye contact to establish boundaries, we must always align our body language at the same time. Some examples of how we can align our body language is by standing or sitting taller, maintaining a neutral or slightly assertive posture, and avoiding any overly flirtatious gestures or behaviors that could be misinterpreted. At the same time, turning our body away from someone is a clear indication that we are not interested. If possible, have a friend make sure the stranger is not approaching while your back is turned or position yourself so you cannot be approached from behind. It's essential to convey a sense of self-assuredness and seriousness rather than unintentionally sending mixed signals.

When to Use Eye Contact:
In general, we recommend using eye contact when we are:

1. Asserting Boundaries:
When faced with inappropriate comments or advances, assertive eye contact communicates that their behavior is unacceptable. 

2. Identifying Potential Threats:
Brief eye contact with someone exhibiting suspicious behavior can signal your awareness of their presence. By doing so, you may discourage them from targeting you.

3. Seeking Assistance:
Silently seeking help is possible through eye contact. For example, making eye contact with a law enforcement officer can indicate that you need assistance without drawing unnecessary attention.

When to Avoid Eye Contact:
There are situations when avoiding eye contact is advised:

Escalating Aggression:
To prevent further escalation, avoid prolonged eye contact in situations involving physical contact or hurt feelings. For example, if an accidental bump leads to aggression in a crowded bar, refraining from prolonged eye contact can defuse the tension. In a road rage situation, not making eye contact with an irate driver will not give them the attention they are desiring. In every road rage situation, avoid the angry driver. If this mean you have to get off on an exit you weren't planning on taking - do it. If this means letting the driver pass you - do it. There have been countless deaths due to road rage incidents that could have been avoided if the victim would have prioritized getting away from the angry driver. 

Culturally Sensitive Situations:
Respecting cultural norms is important when traveling to foreign countries. Eye contact is actually an aspect of communication that varies across cultures. When visiting countries where direct eye contact is perceived as inappropriate, we recommend adapting your behavior to maintain mutual respect. If you must make eye contact, opt for more fleeting glances to show cultural sensitivity. This approach allows you to acknowledge the person without crossing cultural boundaries. 

In certain Asian cultures, prolonged eye contact can be seen as a challenge to authority. In Middle Eastern cultures, extended eye contact between unrelated individuals of the opposite gender can be interpreted as flirtation. By being mindful of these cultural nuances, you demonstrate respect for local customs and foster positive interactions with the people you encounter during your travels.

When You Are Not Interested in Someone:
Whether you're meeting someone new or enduring a less-than-ideal first date, the absence of eye contact sends a clear signal that you are not interested. In America, eye contact is a fundamental element of our communication. In social interactions, making eye contact shows that you are present in the conversation and genuinely interested in the other person. So, when we actively avoid making eye contact, it conveys disinterest, lack of respect, or lack of engagement.

While it's natural to feel uncomfortable or shy in certain situations, such as on a first date, remember that by avoiding eye contact excessively - you can be sending the message that you are not fully invested in the conversation or that you are actively trying to distance yourself. This might be what you truly desire too, and that is ok! Not every date or interaction with another person is going to be positive or one you will wish to continue. 

Misunderstandings can occur, but some individuals are unable to grasp the message you are trying to convey. In fact, they might interpret your behavior as a challenge and continue to advance on you - even when you tell them "no." In situations where you feel uncomfortable or perceive a potential threat, having a self-defense tool like pepper spray can provide more security and peace of mind when the situation is going downhill fast. Pepper spray is a non-lethal deterrent that can help you create distance between yourself and a potential aggressor. It can give you valuable time to escape. Its intended to be used as a means of self-defense, allowing you to protect yourself in case of an imminent physical threat.

It's important to familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations regarding the possession and use of pepper spray. Some countries or states may have restrictions on its use or require permits for carrying such self-defense tools. Ensure you understand the legal implications and abide by the rules of the jurisdiction you are in. If it is legal to carry pepper spray, we recommend this one below. It is discreet and no one knows it's pepper spray. It looks like a pen!: