Eyes are powerful in communicating; no other body parts communicate quite the same. The quickest way to look uninterested, distracted, inattentive, or dishonest is to not meet the other person’s eyes or even face.
Though most of us are taught to look people in the eye when speaking with them, few do it. People will liberally notice and comment on other people’s character with observations like, “He can’t look you in the eye. “She can look you in the eye.” “He’s shifty eyed.” “She gives you the evil eye.” “He’s wild-eyed . . . dull eyed . . . has lies in his eyes.” Their impressions cause them to jump to conclusions about other people, even if they are grossly inaccurate.
If you think CEOs with all their important work don’t bother with minutiae like eye contact, consider these comments I heard in my interviews:
“Only if you are Justin Beiber can you afford to divert your eyes, keep moving, never smile, never engage when you meet me in the hallway.”
“I fire eye rollers.”
“Sometimes I purposefully look like I’m asleep in a video conference to see if people might say things they wouldn’t say in front of me if I were awake.”
“Eyes speak volumes to me. It’s what I trust.”
“Don’t look down. You have to face the people you’re torturing.”
“If you are always looking around, up, and down, then you better look out in more ways than one.”
“When I’m dealing with difficult people, I look them in the eye and wiggle my eyebrows.”
As I’ve written many times, small things make a big difference. They know you are competent what they are looking for it “fit” and you ability to “look ’em in the eye” is part of that.
Benton and Wright, co-authors of The Leadership Mind Switch (McGraw-Hill, 2017)
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