2 min read

The Power of Eye Contact: Navigating Cultural Differences in International IT Teams

Eye contact in the IT workforce can be misinterpreted in different cultures since it communicates other things to people based on their cultural backgrounds. Let's try to talk about it and share some tips and tricks.
The Power of Eye Contact: Navigating Cultural Differences in International IT Teams
Photo by Ismail Hadine / Unsplash


Body language is a big part of our message, and our cultural background strongly influences it. Eye contact is the first example of nonverbal communication.    

Moreover, eye contact is fascinating, particularly regarding cross-cultural communication in international teams such as IT or development groups.

Depending on our culture and personality, it can send different information to other people. It is because different cultures have different customs and attitudes toward eye contact, and understanding these distinctions can considerably improve communication and collaboration across diverse teams.

Let's see what I've learned in dealing with multinational teams.

Cultural Differences

In some cultures, direct and sustained eye contact is recognized as a sign of respect and confidence, but it may be considered unfriendly or aggressive in others.

Maintaining eye contact during conversations, for example, is typically recommended as a sign of participation in Western cultures such as the United States or portions of Europe.

However, prolonged eye contact, on the other hand, might be seen as a challenge to authority or an invasion of privacy in Asian countries such as Japan or South Korea.

Power Distinction

The concept of power distance, which relates to how much less powerful people accept and expect unequal power distribution, also plays a role in eye contact norms.

Subordinates may avoid direct eye contact with superiors as a sign of respect in cultures with significant power gaps (a sign of politeness and respect), such as in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

Building and Creating Trust to Team Members

Trust is an essential component of effective teamwork.

Understanding and respecting cultural differences, particularly eye contact conventions, can develop trust and create a more inclusive and peaceful workplace.

Inevitable Misinterpretations

In IT teams, miscommunications about eye contact can occur, potentially leading to disputes or communication breakdowns.

For example, a team member from a culture that values significant eye contact may interpret another team member's lack of eye contact as disinterest or disapproval when it is simply a cultural difference.

Tips and Tricks for IT Professionals

The ultimate goal is to celebrate diversity and foster a positive work atmosphere in which everyone's contributions are acknowledged.

Let's see some tips one by one.

Be Authentic

In all kinds of communication, including eye contact, authenticity is crucial.

Maintain authentic relationships and allow eye contact to express genuine interest and regard for people.

Respect Cultural Differences

Remember that eye contact conventions can vary greatly when working in an IT workforce with diverse team members from various cultural origins.

Learn about your coworkers' cultural preferences to avoid misinterpretations and encourage understanding.

Balance Eye Contact

Strive for eye contact that is neither too intense nor too avoidant :-).

In some cultures, prolonged eye contact can be regarded as hostility, while avoiding eye contact might be interpreted as a lack of interest or confidence.

Be mindful of Gender Dynamics:

Be aware of any potential gender dynamics associated with eye contact.

Prolonged eye contact with someone of the opposite gender may be unpleasant or unacceptable in some cultures or contexts.

Observe and Learn

Pay attention to how coworkers use eye contact, particularly those with excellent interpersonal skills. Study their techniques and apply them to your communication style.


Keep in mind that eye contact is only one kind of nonverbal communication.

It should support your verbal conversation by expressing openness, involvement, and respect.

Practice and self-awareness, as with any communication skill, will help you enhance eye contact and develop your professional connections.

Stay tuned for more. Until next time, happy programming and happy cloud computing!

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