Staring at a screen conditions us to not listen properly and aids in forgetting details due to lack of concentration.
It also seems to add to shorter attention spans. How many more full-length books got read before smartphones started delivering us bite-size articles, just long enough to read between meetings?
There are studies that propose that people who make more eye contact derive benefits such as becoming more compassionate and less selfish.
It also makes us look more trustworthy and more engaged.
Who do you hire, someone who engages you eye to eye, or the person shiftily staring at their shoes or glancing at their phone on the boardroom table?
If someone ignores you for their phone, you know they’re not mentally engaged and it can damage trust. Put yourself in the other seat: How would you feel if someone kept missing parts of your conversation because their phone was far more fascinating?
Eye contact enables us to gauge other people’s emotions, vulnerability and feelings while they’re in front of you. Which is essential for developing emotional intelligence.