Lessons from the eyes


(By Oladipupo Macjob)

lie-eye-movement  Several researches have proven that communication does not only come verbally. As a matter of fact, nonverbal communication, also known as body language, reveals much more about the individual than just mere spoken words. It is not what is said, it is the way it is said. This also applies to the eyes – several nonverbal cues can be picked up, provided you are observant enough. These nonverbal cues tell a whole lot about people and actually reveal the real facts behind what is being probed. Therefore, it’s an important skill everyone, including pharmacists, should acquire. It is useful in all kinds of business transactions and even in domestic matters.

Eye signals are a vital part of being able to read a person’s attitude and thoughts.When people meet for the first time, they make series of quick judgements about others, based on what they see first, before making further judgements from what they hear. A study compared peripheral vision between men and women and it was observed that, at a distance of 18 inches from a woman, about 80 per cent of the men found it hard to describe her necklace except they moved their eyes down. So, at a distance of 18 inches, while maintaining eye contact, a man is not necessarily gazing through a woman’s body. The first look is just for gathering data; just by reflex.

Moral looking time

This concept was developed by Dr Ray Birdwhistell. He believes that a person can observe another’s eyes, face, abdomen, legs and other parts of the body for only so long before tension is created in both observers and observed.

Generally, the eye speaks volumes about what is going on in the mind of an individual. Sometimes one good indicator of deception is that a suspect maintains longer than usual eye contacts. Ability to read concealed emotions in the eyes is an important skill set.

Pupil insight

When someone becomes excited, the pupils can dilate up to four times their original size. Conversely, anger causes the pupils to contract to what is commonly referred to as “snake eyes”.

Eckhard Hess, a onetime H.O.D of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago and pioneer of the studies of pupillometry, found that pupil size is affected by one’s general state of arousal. If a woman is attracted to a man, her pupils will be dilated at him.

Research has shown that when pornographic films are shown to men, their pupils dilate to three times their size. Most women’s pupils gave the greatest dilation when looking at pictures of mothers and babies. This is why the best-selling children’s toys almost always have oversized pupils.

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Centuries ago, prostitutes put drops of belladonna, a tincture containing atropine into their eyes to dilate their pupils and make themselves appear more desirable.   There are some people however, who suffer from heterochromia i.e have a permanently dilated pupil and they constitute about 1 per cent of the population. So there is a need to get the baseline of the individual, while drawing inferences.

Eyebrow flash

The purpose of this is to draw attention to the face, so that clear signals can be exchanged. The only culture that considers eyebrow flash as impolite with definite sexual connotations is the Japanese culture.

Lowering the eyebrow in humans is a sign of aggression or to show dominance towards others, whereas raising the eyebrows shows submission. A good use of this eyebrow flash in any presentation before an audience does a lot of good to endear an audience to you. So if, as a medical representative or manager doing a clinical presentation, you make use of the eyebrow flash quite often during your presentation, you do not come across as aggressive. This is particularly useful to those whose faces are naturally ‘hard’.

Gaze behaviour

Michael Argyle, a pioneer of social psychology and nonverbal communication skills in Britain, found that when Westerners and Europeans talk, their average gaze time is 61 per cent, consisting of 41 per cent gaze time when talking, 75 per cent when listening and 31 per cent mutual gazing. It’s been found that the amount of eye contact in a typical conversation ranges from 25-100 per cent depending on who’s talking and what culture they are from.

When we talk, we maintain 40-60 per cent eye contact, with an average of 80 per cent eye contact when listening. The notable exceptions to this rule are Japanese and some Asian and South American cultures, where extended eye contact is seen as aggressive or disrespectful. Argyle found out that we often maintain more eye contact when listening than when talking. When the customer is not maintaining an acceptable eye contact with you, especially while you are trying to sell the benefits of your brand or product, there is definitely something to worry about.

To build a good rapport with someone else, your gaze should meet theirs about 60-70 per cent of the time, else it comes across as timidity. When two people meet and make eye contact for the first time, the subordinate person looks away first, but if you maintain gaze with your boss, it shows a clear message of disagreement or aggressiveness.

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Men’s peripheral vision is far poorer than that of women. Which is why men sometimes have difficulty seeing things in the refrigerators, cupboards and drawers. Just at a distance of 18 inches from a woman, they can hardly tell what the colour of her shoes is, unless they shift their eyes to look down. Women don’t have this problem. Their peripheral vision extends to at least 45 degrees to each side above and below, which means she can appear to be looking at someone’s face while at the same time, she is inspecting their goods and chattels.

When a woman wants to get the attention of a man in a room, she will meet his gaze, hold it for two to three seconds, then look away and down. This gaze sends him a message of interest and potential submission.When a person’s gaze meets yours for more than two-thirds of the time, it is probably because he or she finds you interesting or appealing, in which case, he will also have dilated pupils; or on the other hand, he’s hostile toward you and could be issued a challenge, in which case, the pupils constrict.

Geography of the face

There are three basic types of gazing:

  1. a) Social gaze: During social encounters, the gazers eyes look in a triangular area on the other persons face between the eyes and the mouth for about 90 per cent of the gaze time. This is the area of the face we look in a non-threatening environment.
  2. b) The intimate gaze: When people approach each other from a distance, they look quickly between the other persons face and lower body to first establish what the gender of the person is and then a second time to determine a level of interest in them. In close encounters, it’s the triangular area between the eyes and the chest, and for the distant gazing, it’s from the eyes to the groin.

A woman’s wider ranging peripheral vision allows her to check out a man’s body from head to toe without getting caught. The male’s tunnel vision is why a man will move his gaze up and down a woman’s body in an obvious way.

c) The Power gaze

This gaze focuses between the front part of the head and the gap between the two eyes. By keeping your gaze directly at this area you keep the screws firmly on the individual. The pressure stays on them provided your gaze does not drop below the level of their eyes. Never use this kind of gaze in friendly or romantic encounters. It works on a person who you want to reprimand. The occasion should determine which kind of gaze we use or adopt, or else, we end up sending wrong signals and may likely be misunderstood.

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Extended blinking

A normal relaxed blinking rate is about 6-8 blinks per minute and the eyes are closed for only about one-tenth of a second. People under pressure, for instance, when they are lying, are likely to dramatically increase their blinking rate. Extended blinking rate is an unconscious attempt by the person’s brain to block you from their sight because they have become bored or disinterested or feel they are superior to you. When the eyes dart from side to side, it’s the brains way of searching for an escape route as it were.

Research has shown that, of the information relayed to the brain in visual presentation, 83 per cent comes through the eyes, 11 per cent through the ears and 6 per cent through the other senses. It therefore means that a verbal presentation requires frequent repetition of key points to be effective. Use of visual aids is very effective and saves costs and energy.

The point is this, when doing a power point presentation; your audience follows better when your slides are more visual than when you have too many words written on the slide, except it is a quote. It’s worse, if you have to read almost 90 per centof the content to them while presenting. The question that will be on their mind is, why have they come to listen to you if you would still have to read all the slides to them?

Any opportunity you have to make a presentation before people is such an awesome privilege to influence lives, and you just cannot afford to mess things up. A clinical meeting badly presented is company money wasted. This is one of the areas many pharmaceutical companies are missing it, and it’s the major difference between consumer marketing and Pharma marketing. If lesser attention is paid to the messenger who is to deliver the message, it’s simply an error of judgment.

In our next edition we shall go further in looking at some other nonverbal cues through which we communicate or pick up nonverbal communication. Remember, whether you speak or not, your body does.



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