Gazing Triangles

I was born in the Middle East. The (prehistoric) local culture there dictates that you don’t make eye contact with women as a sign of respect (except your wife and mother). After spending the first 15 years of my life there, I moved to Pakistan. That culture tolerated more eye contact with women, but discouraged it with elders. Not making eye contact and keeping your head down while talking to elders was a sign of respect.

Over these 20 odd years, I was conditioned to not make eye contact with women or those older than me. Finally, when I entered adult life, I really struggled because these nuances confused me. I didn’t know where to look while talking to a person. I almost came across as awkward unless I was talking to a male of my own age group.

This really troubled me because it not only reflected poorly on me but was also considered a sign of disrespect in the modern (predominantly North-American influenced) culture. Staring at someone’s face made me feel as though I didn’t trust them. Looking behind them felt like I was ignoring them and looking into someone’s pupils for more than three to five seconds made me feel very awkward. After doing some research I came across the concept of gazing triangles. What I learned will be useful for anyone who works in a business setting.

The concept is simple: every human has three triangles around their face. Depending on your relationship, you focus on one of three triangles:

  1. Power Gazing 🔵: this triangle is formed by looking from eye to eye to forehead. It is the smallest of the three triangles and it is meant for business or formal conversations.

  2. Social Gazing 🟢: this triangle is formed by looking from eye to eye to mouth. The dropping gaze indicates we are getting friendlier. This pattern is best for social interactions.

  3. Intimate Gazing 🟠: this triangle is formed by looked from eye to eye to chest. It is the largest of all three and is meant to indicate that I see you, completely. It expresses one’s interest in the other beyond a social interaction and is most appropriate for intimate settings such as dating or with a spouse.

Research 1 shows that humans default to the social gaze. These gazing triangles not only help you navigate the world of body language fluently but also help you send the right message, for example, using a social gaze during a business meeting will hint to the other person that you are an ally, a friend.

I wrote this because most content around gazing triangles on the internet starts with “How to make her fall in love with you instantly.” I couldn’t find something that was concise and appropriate for a much more formal setting. I hope this help you navigate your next conversation — even if it must occur over Zoom during COVID times.



1 Faces in the eye of the beholder: Unique and stable eye scanning patterns of individual observers