The Eyes of Body Language

green-eyesIf you remove the “E” in eyes, you are left with yes. Sure, it may sound a bit hokie but the focus of your eyes will more likely lead to a yes. Combine the eYES with a smile and a good handshake, and you are well on the way to a obtaining a yes of approval from your conversational partner.

Blinking is a natural effort to keep our eyes lubricated. The blink rate will vary from a low of around four blinks per minute while you are focused on reading to high around forty blinks when engaged in other activities. This can vary widely because of physiological and environmental conditions. If a person has a sudden increase from their norm, this could be an indication of anxiety, or it could mean an eyelash fell into the eyeball. During allergy season, some people will blink more often to lubricate their irritated eyes. Keep the eye blink rate in context. Look for changes in the normal rate, up or down.

When President Clinton was asked about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, his blink rate jumped off the charts. I will not dispute this display of discomfort. People with faster blink rates are not viewed with as much trust. Professor Aldert Vrij of the University of Portsmouth, UK, who is one of the leading researchers in the field of deception, has found the blink rate is of limited association with those being deceptive. I have seen a number of folks whose blink rate increase dramatically when faced with a question that makes them uncomfortable. Are they being deceptive? Not necessarily.

The eyes are said to be the link to the soul. Perhaps. Certainly, dilation or constriction of the pupils will indicate a level of excitement. If a person’s eyes are the size of beach balls, it means they are either excited, on drugs, in a dark room, or dead. Constricted pupils of the person to whom you are talking with would indicate that they are being exposed to bright light or not excited in the conversation or the subject. I believe females are more apt to pick up on this trait then men, unless the eyes are a brilliant color out of the norm. Try identifying the eye color of your conversational partner. It will cause you to focus on their eyes.

Our eyes are always open to incoming stimuli. We can become easily distracted. Our gaze should be focused on our conversational partner around seventy percent of the time. Display an interest in the person to whom you are talking with and avoid the stalker stare. We become self-conscience when we receive a focused and unrelenting stare. You start to think that there is something stuck in your teeth or a pimple on your nose. In addition, avoid the uninterested gazing off into the background. Show deliberate and genuine interest in your conversational partner with your eyes and you are well on the way to deepening rapport.

For more tips on first impressions and developing rapport, take a look at FACE 2 FACE : Observation, Interviewing and Rapport Building Skills: an Ex-Secret Service Agent’s Guide


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4 Responses to The Eyes of Body Language

  1. Pedro COMPETENTOBS says:

    Mike great article! That´s a difficult area to observe/decode, that is full of misconceptions/myths regarding meaning. You just clarified it ;)

  2. Andrea says:

    Good topic, Mike.
    This is one I often struggle with. It’s my natural inclination to look people in the eye when I talk to them. It seems that other people find it too confrontational, especially with the rise of electric gadgets. There was a coworker that I just adored talking with, and in trying to figure out why, I realized that a large part of it is that he’s the only one in a long time to actually look me in the eye when he talks to me. He also let us both have equal time instead of talking constantly and never listening. Those two things are so important, and so often overlooked in the gadget culture.

    AT the opposite extreme, we had a coworker who was so timid with eye contact that he would just give a quick glance and then look away for the rest of the conversation, and would become visibly uncomfortable if he had to look at the person he was talking to. This tended to make the other person uncomfortable as well.

    • mike says:

      Hi Andrea,

      You raise excellent points. Eyes contact demonstrates our interest. Lack of eye contact, as you point out, can also be a negative behavior and have an adverse impact your rapport building.

      Cheers, Mike

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