If a person is talking to another person and the other person is looking away but still listening, many times I've seen people insist by saying:

"Look at me when I'm talking you"


Gently saying

"Look at me"

Why does someone have to say that if the other person is listening anyway? What extra advantage does looking at a persons face have?

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    $\begingroup$ As a teacher I would like to see that my students look at me when I'm teaching. It is to ensure that they are paying attention to what I'm teaching. When a student look elsewhere or talks with someone while I'm teaching something very important their behavior irritates me.However, eye contact make me feel comfortable. At least, I presume that they pay attention. There is a possibility that a student look at the teaching yet their mind is else where. But it will not matter to the teacher. $\endgroup$ – Mathivanan Palraj Jul 26 '16 at 5:26

This article may help Basically if you look anywhere but at the speaker you can seem less attentive and looking at them shows you are paying attention to what they have to say

It is also one of a few primary elements in building rapport in those who you have just met and also to maintain rapport especially when listening to a problem the speaker has in a therapeutic or even business relationship.

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  • $\begingroup$ For some people though, looking at a persons face can be very distracting because they start analyzing the expressions. I've even seen people who keep their eyes closed because they want to listen clearly to what is being said. $\endgroup$ – Nav Jul 26 '16 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ As teacrew said, communication is not just auditory. Facial expressions play a part too. You will naturally use cues from expressions and eye movements etc. to determine if the person is attentive or interested. I agree sone people may try to over analyse but people always analyse expressions naturally anyway $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Jul 26 '16 at 14:12

Communication is not only auditory but gestural and visual, and is illustrated by the McGurk Effect. The combination of auditory and visual information when someone is speaking can lead to the perception of a third sound. So, in a way, when someone says 'look at me when I'm speaking', this is a way to ensure that the listener gets all the information possible for accurate perception, as you may mishear the sound, and without the visual input, perception may become inaccurate. Here's a video on the McGurk Effect

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  • $\begingroup$ Fa Fa Fa Pa Pa Pa. Amazing! :-) But this is from the perspective of the listener. When the speaker asks the listener to "Look at me", I'm sure the speaker isn't thinking of anything similar to the McGurk effect. It has to be something else. $\endgroup$ – Nav Jul 26 '16 at 13:59

As to answering why a person insists on eye contact, the matter is most probably individual. This is the person's preference. Eye contact does not have a universal meaning. Here is a post on differences between Western and Eastern cultures.


Also if to talk "Westerners alone", eye contact can be associated with friendship, sexual attraction, as well as hate and struggle for dominance. See Wikipedia on the Affilliative Conflict Theory


Persons with learning difficulty, especially if linguistically impeded, would heavily rely on facial expression.


Scholars discussing ideas may "take turns" in eye contact, generally keeping one another in visual field. Focus tends to shift attention to hearing.

Well, everyone needs to balance his or her approach individually. :)

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