The Eyes as Communicators

English: Staring_contest vector svg
Staring contest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The eye is the window to the soul. How often have we heard this phrase and spoken it? What meaning does it have?

The eyes play an important part in communication because they show or signal a willingness to communicate. Our eyes function to gain attention and to show our level of interest. We give an eye to a member of the opposite sex, or we try to catch the eye of a waiter/waitress. Most of us can tell when we are talking to someone the level of interest they have in continuing communicating by the eye contact they keep up. .

For someone to seem credible you must sustain eye contact with the audience while speaking and being spoken to by the audience members. Shifty eyed people or people who do not look into the eyes of someone when they are talking are not considered trustworthy. Gaze aversion during an interview has been known to cut a person’s chances of getting the job. They were perceived as being incompetent, lacking composure, unsociable, and passive. Direct eye contact has a beneficial impact on both the communicator’s perceived competence and trustworthiness.

Eye behaviour plays a central role in intimacy. We look into the eyes and stare into the heart of the person we love. Direct eye contact enhances the feeling of intimacy and affection between partners as well as increased feelings of love and passion for their partner.

Eye behaviour is also a sign of power. Powerful people sustain direct eye contact with others while the less powerful look down or away. Those who cannot directly look at others are considered to have minimal leadership capacity. Communicators that show a hight degree of visual dominance, direct eye contact for more than 55% of the conversation when they are speaking and 50% when they are spoken to, are perceived as much more powerful than communicators who show less visual dominance, maintaining eye contact when speaking only 40% of the time and 60% of the time when being spoken to. Impression management begins with the eyes. The longer we can keep up eye contact with whom we interact the greater self-esteem we are perceived to have.

Communicators must be aware that much of the information communicated by their own eyes operates out of their conscious control. Our eyes might show disinterest while the rest of our non verbal cues suggest interest. Our eyes might suggest that our level of self-esteem and self-confidence is dissipating rapidly even though we can exude confidence through our verbal communication. They might suggest another message even while we are whispering sweet nothings into the ear of someone we are intimate with.

A communicator must try to end the behaviour of their eyes that other’s consider negative stereotypes. This impression management is the difference between being considered a low power, low status person and one that has leadership potential.


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