The EYES have it.
You’ve likely heard the saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” Although the origin seems uncertain, the idea stands firm when you turn to psychological studies and relationship advice. We are told to look people in the eyes when we talk to them and that we are able to read whether people are genuine when they are or are not making eye contact with us. So much ink has been spilled on this that there is little uncertainly that the eyes have it when it comes to making connection.
The SCIENCE backs it.
Psychologists say that the eyes provide much information about our emotions. The way that we narrow our eyes by squinting our eyebrows, for example, tells someone that we are likely sad or worried. And we can detect whether a person is fake smiling by looking at the eyes too. When we are genuinely happy and smile, we create crow’s feet at the corners of our eyes. It’s not a voluntary action, so when we fake smile, we often forget to fake our crow’s feet.
And the science goes even deeper. Research on pupil dilation sheds light 😉 on just how our windows to our souls give us away. Researchers argue that the size of our pupils gives away our intentions and emotions. In addition to light, our autonomic nervous system also causes pupil dilation without the need for light changes, so when we are anticipating something or aroused by something, our pupils change too, involuntarily. And it works for threats to our lives or opportunities we perceive. Hmmmm. This could be revealing.
The scientific explanation could get much deeper, but for now, let’s just say that the science backs it; we have enough proof to believe that the eyes are important.
The COMMUNICATION in it.
Whether you can make out the size of the other person’s pupils or not, you can know for sure that communicating takes on new meaning when the eyes are involved. Customer service people, for example, are taught to genuinely smile when they talk on the phone because people can “SEE” their emotions through their voice. We use our facial expressions, especially our eyes, to channel true emotion.
Non-verbal communication such as this is a large part of how we make meaning as communicators. The stripping away of this in digital mediums gave way to things such as emojis which are designed to take up some of the slack for the lack of any non-verbal cues between communicators. We gain so much meaning from the non-verbal that knowing what you are doing with your body and expressions and tone is a pivotal part of making improvements to your communication skills. And although we are focusing on the eyes in this message, you would do well to take time to look at the communication in it all, to work on making improvements to all of your non-verbal expression.
The TRUTH about it.
In light of how magnificent God’s creation is, I am not surprised that our eyes do indeed tell what is going on in our mind and heart. God might not have given us voluntary control over pupil dilation, but he did give us the ability to learn to be better communicators with others. We can learn to use our eyes to better communicate with those around us. (And I think he left in the involuntary stuff so that, even when we don’t want them to, others can tell when something is wrong and reach out to support us.) Our non-verbal communication is super important to how we interact with others and how we honor them with authenticity. And since we are meant to be in relation with others, let’s not overlook the fact that “community” is inherent in “communication.”
We are created to be communicative beings that seek to honor others with our communication. The truth about it is that we are most at peace and content when that is what we are doing through our communication. Those of us who are seeking self promotion above others will continually be unsettled and looking for more. If we are using our communication to belittle others or to get ahead of others or to make ourselves look good, then we will not find peace or contentment in that. We will continually have to do more to satisfy the self.
The HOW TO of it.
Thinking of the eyes as the window to the soul can create some unease when we are talking about business communication, however. We most often think of this as a romantic or personal thing that can be used to connect with people whom we love or to find out what is happening in someone whom we deeply care about. But we must not overlook the importance of this in our business lives as well. We can show care and compassion and connection with others by the way that we make eye contact with them. So let’s keep our eyes on how well we are doing with this 🙂
So what is the how to of it? Here are three ways to practice improving your eye contact:
- Look at yourself in the mirror and count to 4. That’s how long you should make direct eye contact before briefly looking slightly away (half a second or so) from a person’s eyes. Research shows from 3-5 seconds is preferable across most people profiles. This practice will help you seem more poised the next time you have a f2f conversation.
- Pick some video blogs where the hosts make good eye contact with the screen. Now watch those regularly and make appropriate eye contact with the host. Practice looking directly and then looking away for short periods to acknowledge or gesture or take a note.
- Practice looking at the spot right between a person’s eyes if direct eye contact bothers you. This is particularly important for those who have something such as Autism that makes eye contact uncomfortable.
The END of it.
Luke 11:34 says, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.” NIV (see also Matthew 6:22) What a reminder that we can affect others with our eyes and also bring light into our own life through our eyes. Be “light” through your eyes for others and let others’ “light” reach you as well. At the end of it is our willingness to try, our motivation to do well by others through our communication. #theimpactdirective
Connie Benoit Sirois
Consultant | Writer | Speaker