Want a quick way to know if you’ve actually broken out of your shell and started becoming an confident, Engaging Executive? Next time you’re holding a conversation with an important colleague, or better yet, your boss, pay special attention to where your eyes rest during the conversation. You may not even notice it at first, but you soon will. Where is your glance going? Their shoes, your hands, your desk, the rest of the room, something in the distance? Have you picked up yet, on the fact that you’re looking everywhere except for the one place you should be looking?

The eyes aren’t called “the window to the soul” for just any old reason. A deeper connection is made when you look someone in the eyes and, unfortunately, that connection can make some individuals feel awkward, nervous or downright squirmy. Those who are less socially confident are often very uncomfortable when trying to maintain eye contact. This may not seem like a big issue — after all, how important can it really be? Isn’t it just an antiquated rule that doesn’t really mean that much when it comes to your career, particularly if you’re good at your job?

The answer is a resounding no. Eye contact is so much more than just the ability to hold someone’s gaze. Those who can manage it often seem more confident, powerful, strong and thoroughly attentive. They appear likeable and warm, competent, trustworthy and even emotionally stable. Those who can’t, seem socially inept and often like they can’t handle the job. It’s not all about how people perceive you, though. You may be surprised at what you see in others when you start holding the gaze of those around you. You’ll begin noticing so much more about what the other person is saying in a conversation, and not only in their words, but also in their body language and facial expressions.

Start noting the way people in power make eye contact. Watch some interviews between reporters and powerful politicians or well-respected actors. See how they hold the gaze of the individual they’re speaking to, all while making it seem natural. This natural gaze often comes about when the speaker focuses in on the left eye of the person they’re speaking to (trying to go back and forth between both can break your connection and spoil the moment, not to mention, look a little odd).

After taking a look at how some of the best and most influential communicators do it, start trying it out in your own life. Begin holding the gaze of the person you’re speaking with, even if it is a little uncomfortable at first. You’ll notice your relationships with your colleagues strengthen, even slightly, and that your feelings of unease give way to more potent feelings of comfortable confidence.

Want to know more about becoming an Engaging Executive, and the skills you may need in your own life to be the most engaging and influential businessperson you can be? Take the ENGAGE Questionnaire and find out!