Reading for Treasure

Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.

Posted at Jun 7, 2017 8:00 am

When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes.  ~Victor Hugo

Turns out, Victor knew what he was talking about. According to Dr. David Ludden (Psychology Today, Ludden Blog) the eyes are—almost literally—windows to the soul. At the very least they are the home of many facial “micro expressions” that are a key in human communication.

The term “micro expression” refers to brief, often involuntary facial expressions that typically occur when a person suppresses or conceals feelings. They last only fractions of seconds yet give important clues to emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, disgust, contempt, surprise and happiness. They are the basis for grandpa’s firm belief that he can tell if you’re lying by looking in your eyes.

Maybe he can. Maybe he can’t. It depends on how adept he is at reading micro expressions and how adept you are a projecting them. But unless you’re a trained thespian, gramps may be onto something. After all, humans have had generations to hone the technique of reading micro expressions—so much so that doing so is almost innate.

eyesHow often have you read this line: the smile didn’t reach her eyes?  Authors have been writing variations on this theme since before I could read. They will be using it long after I cease writing, too. The movement of the lips can be deliberate. One can fake a smile. But according to Dr. Ludden “the eyes are the giveaway: When we’re truly happy, we not only smile but also crinkle the corners of our eyes in a “crow’s feet” pattern. But when people fake a smile, they usually forget about their eyes.”

But wait—there’s more. The pupils widen to show interest—or arousal. They also widen to show fear—so don’t forget to use your other senses (and/or your partner’s other micro expressions) to determine what he or she is actually feeling.

Theory aside, do you remember looking into the eyes of someone who really looked back at you? That intense eye-to-eye gaze—however brief—has the ability to cause a cascade of involuntary responses. A flutter in the gut. A slight increase in heart rate, a hitch in the breath. Yup. The typical falling-in-love mix of responses that has you connecting on an entirely different level.

Not that every eye-to-eye gaze is sexual. Far from it. In fact, I think something even more basic is going on here. I think the eye-to-eye contact and the resulting emotional rush is really about feeling understood. About being cared for on a deeper level. About being “seen” and appreciated by another human. It’s also about humanizing the one whose eyes you are gazing into. (This explains a lot about why people connect to their pets, too, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So, next time you have a conversation, try looking into the person’s eyes. You might discover secrets or deduct that they are lying to you. But more likely you’ll form a connection that could be the start of something beautiful.

And that’s enough to make a smile light up not only the eyes, but also the entire face.


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