Cool mint breath strip – check.  Z-Grip F-301 Ballpoint Pen – check. Do not disturb mode – check.  You think you’re ready to make a great impression, but what are you going to say without saying it?

Eye contact is a powerful form of nonverbal communication. Japanese researchers Kajimura and Nomura conclude that eye contact can be so intense that it can interfere with normal thought processes. It can reveal one’s emotions, observed in eye contact patterns, inferring appreciation or acceptance…a daunting glare can suggest awkwardness or frame judgment.

Using eye contact to communicate effectively helps establish a relationship of trust between the sender and the receiver. Positive eye contact establishes value toward the other participant(s) in conversation and can aid concentration.

Therefore, what is appropriate eye contact for a work environment? Eye contact normalcies change depending on the culture. Western culture places a greater importance on eye contact. Looking someone directly in the eyes shows confidence and trustworthiness. Psychologists also suggest periodical blinking signals sincerity and alertness, while blinking too much exhibits weakness. A balance generates a strong yet sincerely demeanor.

However, in Asian countries such as China or Japan, eye contact plays a lesser role in communication and in some cases, may even be considered inappropriate. In Latin American countries, it is often perceived as aggressive and insensitive.

Michigan State University and Conversation Aid suggest best practices include holding eye contact 4-5 seconds and when you slowly glance away, do so to the side: avoiding looking down, which may indicate a lack of confidence.

Research also suggests tailoring eye communication according to the recipient’s level of comfortability. If the other participant in the conversation avoids eye contact, relax the intensity and frequency of direct eye contact. But remember to stay present and engaged in the conversation. The opposite also applies. If you notice the other individual reciprocates your level of engagement, you’ve established an effective pattern of interaction.

Good eye contact is an essential communication tactic. So next time you’re prepping for an important meeting or interview, invoke the gift of seeing eye to eye.