Building a High Eye-Q

During the Renaissance it was a common belief that the eyes were the entry-point (or window) to the human soul. But this notion of eyes, souls and points of entry had a much longer history - a history that can be traced back to the early Greeks and Plato. Today, of course, science tells us that the eye is the only part of the human brain visible to others.

We do indeed reveal our soul (temperament or emotional state) through our eyes and we know that other human beings have cottoned on to it since the times of the early Greeks. It is through the eyes that we truly reveal who we are.

Eye contact helps to regulate the flow of communication. It signals interest in others and increases the speaker's credibility. Speakers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth and credibility.

Eye contact is an important signal of integrity and forthrightness in Western cultures. Prolonged eye contact in Eastern cultures is considered impolite or a sign of sexual interest.

The literature on persuasion and influence is filled with references to the importance of eye contact. In studies which manipulated body gestures, posture, vocal fluency and eye contact to determine their impact and efficacy, the results consistently showed that eye contact was a key factor in establishing and maintaining trust.

External Focus

The most effective way to make credible eye contact is to combine it with an external focus, a focus that reflects your consciousness of your surroundings. If you make eye contact with an internal, self-conscious focus, your listener/s will unconsciously register that your full attention is not directed on them.

Nervous, darting eyes convey various impressions to an audience and not only that of nervousness. People may interpret rapid eye movements as shiftiness, lack of confidence, fear of being discovered, and so on.

Avoid looking down. While it may be necessary on occasions to refer to notes, place your notes an angle where you’re your eyes do not look down further than your gaze to those in the front quadrant of your audience. Looking down closes you off from your audience, and if you’re not looking down for a purpose, people may interpret it as shyness, shame or lack of self-confidence.

Eyes and facial Expression

One type of unconscious facial movement that is less apt to be read clearly by an audience is involuntary frowning. This type of frowning occurs when a speaker attempts to deliver a memorised speech. There are no rules governing the use of specific expressions, as context is always the key factor in the impressions you give. But If you relax your inhibitions and allow yourself to respond naturally to your thoughts, attitudes and emotions, your facial expressions will be appropriate and will project sincerity, conviction and credibility.

When you are recalling information, remembering a point or visualising a scene, tilt your head and eyes upward a little and let people see that you are thinking. Recall what you do with your head, eyes and body when you are deeply engaged in recalling interesting information. Give yourself permission to do naturally what you do in everyday situations.

Space Cadets

Often people look at others with a wider-angled gaze, not directing their focus on those with whom they’re communicating. This gives the appearance of looking ‘through’ people rather than looking at them. Here, the depth of field is beyond the person’s head. Avoid the ‘space cadet’ gaze and set your focus directly on the person/people you are addressing.

Some people have a habit of focussing their gaze beyond the eyeballs of others. The depth of field or point at which their focus makes contact is roughly two centimetres behind the retina. This can have a pleasing effect when accompanied by a genuine smile however some care needs to be exercised because it conveys intimacy. Lovers do it all the time, but it’s truly intimidating with a stony or serious facial expression.

The most effective form of eye contact is where you can establish a focus that takes in the eyes, lids, eyebrows, and some of the musculature around the eyes of individuals with whom you are communicating.

Grid Eye Contact

When speaking to groups, make sure everyone is included in your gaze. Select individuals one by one and pay direct attention to them for approximately ten seconds, long enough to deliver one complete ‘byte’ of information. Move on to the next individual and continue the process throughout your presentation.

For large audiences, select grids of people and apply the above process, speaking to one grid at a time. Alternate by picking out faces at random and speaking to them directly. In television interviews and appearances, pay full attention to the questioner.

(c) Desmond Guilfoyle 2006

1 comment:

Constantin said...

Thanks Des for this article. I was a little confused by your point about combining with an external focus, a focus that reflects your consciousness of yoru surroundings. Any more on "how to" best establish eye contact would be welcome - or can I find it in the Charisma Effect?