How to Make Better Eye Contact

Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, out Sep. 29th, 2011 from Penguin/Portfolio, and The Power of Eye Contact: Your Secret For Success in Business, Love and Life, from HarperCollins. He also writes a blog on entrepreneurialism, career development, and education at

The Education of Millionaires is a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital. Ellsberg interviewed some of the most successful people on the planet who didn’t complete college and who educated themselves in the real world, to deconstruct their secrets and create a “Syllabus for a Successful Life” based on what he learned from them.

The book features interviews with self-educated billionaires Phillip Ruffin and John Paul DeJoria, Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker, WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg, fashion designer Marc Ecko, Pink Floyd lead guitarist David Gilmour, and marketing experts Eben Pagan, Frank Kern and Joe Polish. It also features the insights of experts including Seth Godin, “Rich Dad” Robert Kiyosaki, and PayPal co-founder and Facebook angel investor, billionaire Peter Thiel.

The Education of Millionaires has been sold into Korea pre-release, and The Power of Eye Contact has been sold into China, Russia, France, Korea, Vietnam, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Brazil. The latter was featured in the Washington Post, and on Tim Ferriss’s Four-Hour Workweek blog.

Ellsberg is the creator of Eye Gazing Parties, a series of social events based on eye contact which attracted feature press coverage from the New York Times, Associated Press TV, CBS News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Regis & Kelly, Current TV, Yoga Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, the BBC, the Times of London,,, Agence Press France, German and Canadian national television, and in Tim Ferriss’s #1 New York Times andWall Street Journal bestseller The Four-Hour Workweek. Elle magazine called Eye Gazing Parties “New York’s hottest dating trend.”

Ellsberg collaborated with Dr. Marc Gerstein on Flirting With Disaster: Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental, which was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. Ellsberg’s work has also been featured in the Harvard Business Review online and on Digital Book World.

Ellsberg was born in San Francisco in 1977, grew up in Berkeley, and graduated from Brown University in 1999, Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude. He lives in New York with his wife Jena la Flamme. Contact Michael at (Michael reads all mail sent to this address, but may not answer every email individually.)


  • Transcript


Michael Ellsberg: Imagine walking through life with a really bad handshake.  Like, every time you shook someone’s hand, which is probably two or three times a day it was like one of those really icky, limp kind of icky handshakes that just left the other person kind of nervous and gave them the heebie-jeebies.  Well, we all know that that’s something very simple.  A handshake actually has a large impact on your first impression when meeting people socially.  There is this whole other area called eye contact where most people are very bad at it.  They either get nervous about it and don’t make eye contact, or they make a very kind of nervous, anxious kind of eye contact.  It’s not the only thing obviously that leads to success, but it’s actually surprisingly impactful and surprisingly influential.  Just like you need to stand up and stand tall and have good posture and have a good handshake, you also have to have good eye contact.  It’s very important.

The kind of eye contact you want to have when you go into a job interview is neither too aggressive nor too weak.  It’s walking this perfect middle line that is called confidence.  So, if you err too far on the other side, you’re going to be looked at as unconfident--if you’re not making eye contact, if you’re kind of nervously flitting about like this--not a good way to be viewed in a job interview.  The other extreme is if you’re bearing down on a person like this with a really intense eye contact.  That is not viewed upon well because it’s very aggressive and it looks like you’re trying to brow beat your interviewer, which is not the impression you want to make.

So the right way to do it is what I call a "soft gaze."  You don’t have those Superman laser beams coming out of your eyes where you’re really, really intensely focused.  It’s just like a soft focus--your interviewer’s face is not sharply, sharply in focus; you’re taking in your interviewer’s whole face.  It’s a dance of eye contact where you are following their lead to a certain extent.  They make a little eye contact, you make a little eye contact.  They look away, you look away.

Now this is a lot to remember.  Don’t practice this your first time when you have a really important job interview.  That’s the wrong place to practice this.  The right place is with your friends, at a restaurant with waiters, with waitresses, with sales staff.  They often are very conscious of eye contact and they’re trying to sell you something, so they want to make eye contact.  It’s a great free laboratory to practice this stuff.

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd