People avoid eye contact for many different reasons, including anxiety, cultural differences, low self-esteem or busy thinking. Although direct eye contact is a common practice, it is important to consider the reasons that might cause someone to avoid making eye contact.
Social anxiety is a common reason for avoiding eye contact. Those who suffer from social anxiety may avoid eye contact due to a fear of communication and the potential of social embarrassment. Individuals with social anxiety may also avoid eye contact out of fear that their own gaze makes others uncomfortable.
Cultural differences may also account for a lack of eye contact. While eye contact is commonly seen as a sign of respect in Western culture, it can convey a lack of respect in other societies. Many Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Native American and Asian cultures view direct eye contact as disrespectful.
Others may avoid eye contact out of low self-esteem. Eye contact is commonly perceived as an indicator of assertiveness or social confidence, and those who feel they lack these qualities may find it difficult to maintain consistent eye contact.
Finally, individuals who avoid eye contact may simply be thinking intently. Maintaining consistent eye contact takes a degree of mental effort, and some individuals may break eye contact in order to concentrate more fully on the conversation at hand.