Communication in technical meetings – a hidden trap

Keeping eye contact when trying to think puts a significant burden on our brain. Surprisingly heavy burden, as researchers discovered.

R&D organization is like a professional athlete team. You compete with other companies in the industry sector – but you also compete with team members. It can be healthy for the team – or not so much. That competition is very often easy to see in technical meetings when some participants want to force their opinions and agendas.

When leading a technical meeting one has to learn to manage that behavior. This is especially important in FMEA meetings. 

Active Listening

Active listening is a technique used to help the other person to fully communicate their message and make sure that you and everybody else in the meeting understand it. It is extremely useful when discussing technical topics.

Active listening involves the use of nodding gestures, smiling or saying “yes” from time to time to help the speaker deliver the message. That feedback is extremely important for people that find it hard to speak in public.

Keeping eye contact during communication is also one of the most important things to remember. But there is a useful fact about it that few people are aware of. 

Eye contact - pros and cons

Ever wondered why you are so tired after a finished job interview? In big part, it is due to trying to listen, think, speak and keep eye contact with the other person all at the same time. It was investigated by scientists from Kyoto University in Japan in 2016 with 26 volunteers playing word association games while staring at computer-generated faces.

What happens is that keeping eye contact when trying to think puts a significant burden on our brain. Surprisingly heavy burden, as researchers discovered.

And maybe you felt that once or twice when hearing about a complex technical problem and feeling the urge to stop looking at the other person to rethink what they have just said.

Knowing that we should not force ourselves to keep eye contact at all costs, but rather let our brain decide when to “let go” and try to contemplate on what we are hearing. You can still do nodding gestures  to let the other person know you are still listening. This way you are better managing your processing power.


You may be surprised that a big part of the article about Active Listening is dedicated to eye contact. But, for humans, sight is the most important sense and we use it heavily when communicating.  It seems prudent to rethink how one uses that tool and try to become better at it. For example: maybe it’s a better strategy to keep eye contact only during important parts of communication – like when you deliver a summary of the longer message. It is worth explorng the toolset available for public speakers. Such tricks will help you to perform better not only in meetings but in many other areas of your activity too – even if you don’t like the spotlight.

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