Eye contact is an essential part of making a good impression. Making eye contact makes you seem warm, friendly, and confident. But not everyone is comfortable looking others in the eye. Many people are shy or awkward about the whole thing.

Whether you’re shy or not, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about how best to make eye contact, but there is actually an art to getting it just right. Let’s look at six tips for making perfect eye contact, and the biggest mistakes: avoiding it, staring too long, and faking it.

Don’t avoid it altogether: You have to do make eye contact. If you don’t, you will give the impression of being snotty or evasive. People might also think you dishonest, though eye contact is actually not an indicator of honesty, since dishonest people know it is considered one and therefore go out of their way to make eye contact (liars are crafty that way). You can’t just let your eyes wander around the room, whether you’re meeting someone in a social setting or in an interview. The interview is more demanding of eye contact, of course, because you’re sitting directly across from the person, or people.

Establish eye contact right away: Do it when shaking hands and introducing yourself. Just dive right in there and look that person right in the eye. Then you can take a break.

Smile: At least during that first introduction eye contact. Or if a smile doesn’t feel natural – don’t force it – at least look friendly and interested.

Don’t stare too long: So, suddenly, you find yourself looking into someone’s eyes and thinking, “Uh oh…I’m making eye contact. Now what? How long should I do this for? I should look away, shouldn’t I? Will that be weird? This is awkward…”

Staring too long can have several negative effects – you make the other person uncomfortable, you might look like you’re flirting, you might look crazy.

Hold for three seconds, max, then look away: Count “One, two, three,” then look somewhere else. You won’t have to do this all the time. Once eye contact feels more natural, you’ll just do this instinctively.

Don’t do that thing everyone recommends where you look at someone’s mouth or forehead instead of looking them in the eye: I think this is the worst mistake you can make. The idea here is supposedly that looking at someone’s mouth or forehead (or whatever) makes it look like you’re looking them in the eye. But it doesn’t always, and a lot of people can tell you’re doing this. Also, if you’re not actually looking someone in the eye, you’re far more likely to stare for too long, which, as we already discussed, is awkward. At best the other person will think you’re looking them in the eyes for way too long, and might therefore be a weirdo. At worst they’ll wonder why you’re staring at their mouth or forehead and start wondering if they have a zit or spinach in their teeth. Don’t fixate on any one area for a long period of time.

Keep coming back to making eye contact: Make contact, look away, make contact, look away…this will, again, eventually happen naturally. We break eye contact when we are thinking and planning what to say next. Just don’t forget to come back to it from time to time.

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