Throughout history, we have been preoccupied with the eye and its effect on human behaviour. We have all used such phrases as ‘She looked daggers at him’, ‘She has big baby eyes’, ‘He has shifty eyes’, ‘She has inviting eyes’, ‘He had that gleam in his eye’ or ‘He gave me the Evil Eye’. When we use these phrases we unwittingly refer to the size of the person’s pupils and to his or her gaze behaviour. In his book The Tell-Tale Eye, Hess says that the eyes may well give the most revealing and accurate of all human communication signals because they are a focal point on the body and the pupils work independently.
In given light conditions, the pupils will dilate or contract as the person’s attitude and mood change from positive to negative and vice versa. When someone becomes excited, his pupils can dilate up to four times their normal size. Conversely, an angry, negative mood causes the pupils to contract to what are commonly known as ‘beady little eyes’ or ‘snake eyes’. The eyes are used a lot in courtship; women use eye make-up to emphasise their eye display. If a woman loves a man, she will dilate her pupils at him and he will decode this signal correctly, without knowing he does so. For this reason, romantic encounters are often arranged in dimly lit places that cause the pupils to dilate.
Young lovers who look deeply into each other’s eyes unknowingly look for pupil dilation; each becomes excited by the dilation of the other’s pupils. Research has shown that when pornographic films showing men and women in sexual positions are shown to men, their pupils can dilate to almost three times the normal size. When the same films are shown to women their pupil dilation is even greater than that recorded by the men, which raises some doubt about the statement that women are less stimulated by pornography than men.
Young babies and children have larger pupils than adults and their pupils constantly dilate when adults are present in an attempt to look as appealing as possible and thus receive constant attention.
Tests conducted with expert card players show that fewer games were won by the experts when their opponents wore dark glasses. For example, if an opponent were dealt four aces in a game of poker, his rapid pupil dilation would be unconsciously de- tected by the expert, who would get a feeling that he should not bet on the next hand. Dark glasses worn bythe opponents eliminated pupil signals and as a result the experts won fewer games than usual.
Pupil watching was used by the ancient Chinese gem traders who watched for the pupil dilation of their buyers when negotiating prices. Centuries ago, prostitutes put drops of belladonna in their eyes to dilate their pupils and to make themselves appear more desirable. The late Aristotle Onassis was noted for wearing dark glasses when negotiating business deals so that his eyes would not reveal his thoughts.
An old cliché says, ‘Look a person in the eye when you talk to him.’ When you are communicating or negotiating with others, practise ‘looking them in the pupil’ and let the pupils tell you their real feelings.
It is only when you see ‘eye to eye’ with another person that a real basis for communication can be established. While some people can make us feel quite comfortable when they converse with us, others can make us feel ill-at-ease and some seem untrustworthy. This has to do primarily with the length of time that they look at us or hold our gaze as they speak. When a person is being dishonest or holding back information, his eyes meet ours less than one-third of the time. When a person’s gaze meets yours for more than twothirds of the time, it can mean one of two things; first, he or she finds you very interesting or appealing, in which case the gaze will be associated with dilated pupils; secondly, he or she is hostile towards you and may be issuing a non-verbal challenge, in which case the pupils will become constricted. Argyle reported that he found that when person A likes person B, he will look at him a lot. This
causes B to think that A likes him, so B will like A in return. In other words, to build a good rapport with another person, your gaze should meet his about 60 to 70 per cent of the time. This will also make him begin to like you. It is not surprising, therefore, that the nervous, timid person who meets your gaze less than one-third. of the time is rarely trusted.. In negotiation, dark tinted glasses should be avoided at all times as they make others feel that you are staring at them.
Like most body language and gestures, the length of time that one person gazes at another is culturally determined. Southern Europeans have a high frequency of gaze that may be offensive to others and the Japanese gaze at the neck rather than at the face when conversing. Always be sure to consider cultural circumstances before jumping to conclusions.
Not only is the length of the gaze significant; just as important is the geographical area of the person’s face and body at which you direct your gaze, as this also affects the outcome of a negotiation. These signals are transmitted and received non-verbally and are accurately interpreted by the receiver.
It takes about thirty days of conscious practice before the following eye techniques can be effectively used to improve your communication skills.
The Business Gaze (Figure 109)
When having discussions on a business level, imagine that there is a triangle on the other person’s forehead. By keeping your gaze directed at this area, you create a serious atmosphere and the other person senses that you mean business. Provided that your gaze does not drop below the level of the other person’s eyes, you are able to maintain control of the interaction.
The Social Gaze (Figure 110)
When the gaze drops below the other person’s eye level, a social atmosphere develops. Experiments into gazing reveal that during social encounters the gazer’s eyes also look in a triangular area on the other person’s face, in this case between the eyes and the mouth.
The Intimate Gaze (Figure 111)
The gaze is across the eyes and below the chin to other parts of the person’s body. In close encounters it is the triangular area between the eyes and the chest or breasts and for distant gazing from the eyes to the crotch. Men and women use this gaze to show interest in each other and those who are interested will return the gaze.
The sideways glance is used to communicate either interest or hostility. When it is combined with slightly raised eyebrows or a smile, it communicates interest and is frequently used as a courtship signal. If it is combined with down-turned eyebrows, furrowed brow or the corners of the mouth down-turned, it signals a suspicious, hostile or critical attitude.
The area of the other person’s body upon which you direct your gaze can have a powerful effect on the outcome of any face-to-face encounter. If you were a manager who was going to reprimand a lazy employee, which gaze would you use? If you used the social gaze, the employee would take less heed of your words, regardless of how loud or threatening you sounded. The social gaze would take the sting out of your words and the intimate gaze would either intimidate or embarrass the employee. The business gaze is the appropriate one to use, as it has a powerful effect on the receiver and tells him that you are serious.
What men describe as the ‘come-on’ look that women use relates to a sideways glance and an intimate gaze. If a man or woman wants to play hard to get, he or she needs only avoid using the intimate gaze and instead use the social gaze. To use the business gaze during courting would cause a man or woman to be labelled as cold or unfriendly. The point is that when you use the intimate gaze on a potential sex partner, you give the game away. Women are expert at sending and receiving this type of gaze but unfortunately, most men are not. Men are usually obvious when they use the intimate gaze and they are generally unaware of having been given an intimate gaze, much to the frustration of the woman who has transmitted it.
Eye Block Gesture
Some of the most irritating people with whom we deal are those who use the eye – block gesture as they speak. This gesture occurs unconsciously and is an attempt by the person to block you from his sight because he has become bored or uninterested in you or feels that he is superior to you. Compared to the normal rate of six to eight blinks per minute during conversation, the eyelids close and remain closed for a second or longer as the person momentarily wipes you from his mind. The ultimate blockout is to leave the eyes closed and to fall asleep, but this rarely happens during one-to-one encounters.
If a person feels superior to you, the eye block gesture is combined with the head tilted backwards to give you a long look, commonly known as ‘looking down one’s nose’. When you see an eye block gesture during a conversation, it is a signal that the approach you are using may be causing a negative reaction and that a new tack is needed if effective communication is to take place (Figure 112).
CONTROLLING A PERSON’S GAZE
It is worth discussing at this point how to control a person’s gaze when you are giving him a visual presentation using books, charts, graphs and so on. Research shows that of the information relayed to a person’s brain, 87 per cent comes via the eyes, 9 per cent via the ears, and 4 per cent via the other senses. If, for example, the person is looking at your visual aid as you are speaking, he will absorb as little as 9 per cent of your message if the message is not directly related to what he sees. If the message is related to the visual aid, he will absorb only 25 to 30 per cent of your message if he is looking at the visual aid. To maintain maximum control of his gaze, use a pen or pointer to point to the visual aid and at the same time verbalise what he sees (Figure 113). Next, lift the pen from the visual aid and hold it between his eyes and your own eyes (Figure 114). This has the magnetic effect of lifting his head so that he is looking at your eyes and now he sees and hears what you are saying, thus achieving maximum absorption of your message. Be sure that the palm of your other hand is visible when you are speaking.