If you have noticed someone holding prolonged eye contact with you, you’re probably wondering why. This post will try to help you to figure that out and to help you to figure out why someone might be doing it as it happens in the future.

So, what does prolonged eye contact mean? If someone of the opposite sex holds prolonged eye contact with you then it will often indicate attraction. Other possible meanings could be that they’re trying to exert dominance, they’re mad at you or that they’re just thinking.

There are actually a lot of possible meanings of prolonged eye contact. The best way to figure out what it might mean will be to consider the setting, how they do it, where they do it and the other body language signals that they are giving off.

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Possible meanings of prolonged eye contact

There are a number of possible meanings of prolonged eye contact. It’s important to remember that you should consider clusters of body language when thinking about its meaning instead of just thinking about what one particular body language signal might mean.

Below I will mention a number of different possible reasons that someone might maintain eye contact with you along with the body language that you would expect to come with it.

They’re attracted to you

If you’re talking to someone of the opposite sex of around the same age as you and they hold prolonged eye contact then it would suggest that they are attracted to you.

When we begin to develop attraction for another person it will cause us to engage in mutual gazing which is where they hold their eye contact with the other person for a prolonged period.

In two studies, it was found that when two people help eye contact with each other for prolonged periods it actually caused them to develop increased feelings of attraction towards each other.

If the person was maintaining prolonged eye contact with you due to attraction then they will likely show you a number of other body language signals that infer attraction.

  • Smile

It is likely that they will give you genuine smiles when they first see you where they crease slightly at the sides of the eyes and they show their teeth.

  • Eyes

When we are happy or when we are with someone that we are attracted to it can actually cause our pupils to dilate. This means that if you notice that the person typically has more dilated than usual pupils when he/she is with you then it would signal that they find you attractive. It also means that going on dates where the lights are dim can spark attraction since it will cause both of your pupils to be bigger.

Another thing that you might notice is that they glance in your direction a lot when they’re not right in front of you. This would signal that they are trying to see where you are or that they just want to look at you.

  • Nervousness

If the person finds you attractive then it may also cause him/her to show some signs of being nervous when they’re around you.

This means that they might touch their neck more often, rub their face more often, rub their arms more or they might rub their legs more. You may also find that they bounce their feet up and down around you since they’re excited to see you.

  • Mirroring behaviors

Another thing that we do when we’re with people that we like or are attracted to is mirror their behavior.

This means that if the person that held prolonged eye contact with you finds you attractive then you might notice that he/she mirrors some of your behaviors.

So, they might sit in a similar way to you, they might make similar hand gestures as you, they might copy the words that you use and they will reciprocate movements that you make such as moving closer or if you touch them and then they touch you back.

  • Feet

If the person maintained eye contact with you due to attraction then there are probably some signs that they might show you with their feet and lower body.

When we like someone we will generally point our feet in their direction so you would likely find that they will point their feet towards you and that they lean their lower body in your direction.

You may also notice that they touch your feet often with their feet.

  • Touching

When someone finds you attractive you’ll likely find that they touch you more often or that they find excuses to touch you. If the person maintained eye contact with you and they frequently touched you then that would be a strong signal of attraction.

  • Voice

When we’re with someone that we find attractive it can actually change the pitch of our voice.

When woman are with a man that they find attractive they will often speak at a higher pitch since it is a submissive signal. Whereas when men are more likely to speak in a deeper voice since it signals more testosterone.

  • Mannerisms

If the person did it due to attraction you’ll likely find that they talk to you more than others, they laugh at your jokes more and that they look at you when they laugh.

  • Proximity

If the person does find you attractive then it is likely that they will often close the distance between you both. They will also often lean in towards you when they’re with you.

To assert dominance

One reason that someone might hold prolonged eye contact with you is actually to assert dominance.

People that are in higher positions will generally hold their eye contact for longer and people in lower positions will hold eye contact for a smaller time period.

If the person was holding prolonged eye contact with you in order to exert their dominance then they will likely have shown a number of body language signals.

When we are comfortable or when we submit to someone we will generally show our palms. This is primarily due to their vulnerability and that we want to show that we’re not a threat. However, if the person was trying to exert dominance then it is unlikely that they would have been willing to show their palms.

When they were holding eye contact with you it is more likely that they will have squinted slightly with their eyes and that they will have close looking eyebrows where they wrinkle in between.

They may also have had a clenched jaw and clenched fists.

They’re mad at you

It could be that the person was staring at you because they were mad at you.

If this was the case then it would likely be that something might have happened recently that could cause them to be made.

There are also a number of other body language signals that they might show.

They will likely be pointing and leaning their lower bodies in a different direction to you. They would probably squint with their eyes when looking at you, their pupils may constrict slightly and they won’t smile and if they do it won’t be genuine instead it will be tight-lipped.

They’re thinking

It could be that they weren’t actually looking at you. Rather, they might have simply been thinking about something and looking in your direction. This would be less likely to be the case if it was while they were talking to you though.

Consider who is doing it

When trying to figure out why they might have been holding their eye contact with you for longer it would help to consider who was doing it.

If it was a person that is the opposite sex to you and they’re a similar age then it would be more likely that they where gazing at you due to attraction.

If it was your boss then it would be more likely be due to higher status people holding eye contact for longer.

Consider how they do it

It would also be very helpful to consider the way in which they hold eye contact with you.

If they stare from a distance then it could have a number of different meanings. They might have been checking you out, they might have wanted you to notice them, they might have wanted to see if you are ok. It can be difficult to figure out why someone might have stared at you from a distance but I have written about how to figure it out in the past here.

Whereas if they were holding prolonged eye contact while talking to you it would make it more likely that it was either due to attraction or dominance.

Look at their other body language signals

As mentioned already it’s important to think about body language in terms of groups of signals that align themselves with one another instead of drawing conclusions from a single gesture.

This means that in order to figure out why someone might have been holding prolonged eye contact with you it would be important to look at their other body language signals.

I have mentioned a number already but below I will mention some additional things to look for.

  • If it was a woman

When we’re feeling nervous it can cause us to show our neck as a submission signal. This means that if it was a woman that was attracted to you then she may have brushed her hair to one side around you or may have tilted her head slightly.

She may have also stroked her hair more frequently and would have been more likely to show you her palms.

  • If it was a man

Men don’t show as many signals of attraction in terms of their body language as women do. However, they do speak with a deeper pitch, touch more, face their feet towards you, mirror your behavior and talk to you more than others.

Consider the environment

It would also be helpful to think about the environment that it happened in.

If it happened in a social setting then it will make it more likely that they did it due to attraction and that they were doing gazing behavior.

Whereas in a business setting it may have been because they were trying to command you to do something but it could still have been due to attraction. This is why it’s important to consider their other body language signals.

Learn their baseline behavior

When you’re trying to figure out what a person might be telling you with their body language it would be very helpful to know what their baseline behavior looks like.

Baseline behavior is how they behave and what their body language normally looks like when they’re in a normal mood.

When a person deviates from their baseline behavior it can be a very effective way to discover that they are not feeling comfortable and it can help you to figure out what they might actually be feeling like.

Additionally, it could be that the person normally does something that could be considered as not normal behavior. For example, it could be that they normally hold their eye contact for a longer period with everyone that they speak to so when they hold their eye contact with you it wouldn’t actually be very helpful in figuring out how they might be feeling.

Think about when they did it

Another thing to think about is the timing of when they prolonged their eye contact with you. If it was while there were people around then it would make it more likely to have been due to trying to be dominant. Whereas if it was when you were alone together then it would be more likely that they were gazing at you.

Consider their sex

Obviously, the sex of the person can help you to determine why they might have done it.

If they were the same sex as you then it would make it less likely that it was due to attraction.

Why you should try to hold eye contact

Holding your eye contact for slightly longer than you normally would can be helpful for you. Higher status people tend to hold eye contact for longer so by doing so you will be able to give people the impression that you are a more confident person. This can help you to improve your relationships and reduce how much you get taken advantage of.

It’s generally considered that the optimal amount of time to hold eye contact is 70% of the time.

Related questions

What are the reasons for prolonged eye contact? Possible reasons for prolonged eye contact are that they are attracted to you, they are trying to be dominating, they are thinking or it might mean that they are mad at you.

What does prolonged eye contact mean during a conversation? If a person maintains prolonged eye contact with you during a conversation it would suggest that they are attracted to you. It could also be because they are mad, or that they are being dominating. It might also be that they naturally hold eye contact for longer.

If you want to learn more about body language, a book I would recommend would be The Definitive Book of Body Language (on Amazon). It shows you how to interpret body language and understand people's true intentions.

Author

I created and currently manage Body Language Central, one of the premier sources for body language-related knowledge. Body language plays a key role in our daily lives. I hope that my website can help condense the wide amount of body language information available and allow you to make full use of it in your daily life. You can read more about me and my website here.