The study of body language is fascinating. However, the eyes are such an important and complex part of our body language they deserve special attention. Remember, the eyes are among the hardest parts of our body (and body language) to control.
The pupils and eye secretions are impossible to control consciously.
Eyes are sometimes referred to as the windows of the soul because they can send many different non-verbal signals—more than many of us are aware of. When reading body language, looking at people's eyes is useful because it is an accepted part of communication in most places, whereas gazing at or studying other parts of the body may be considered rude or even offensive.
The technique of Neurolinguistic Programming was developed by American psychologists Richard Brandler and John Grinder. They concluded that based on eye movements, humans reveal what their brains are focusing on by telling if the person is imagining something or remembering something. Specifically, the direction of the eye movement is useful in predicting channels of thought accessed by a person. They can signify recalling sights, smells, tastes, or tactile memories.
● Direct eye contact
This refers to two people looking directly into each other’s eyes (versus their toward their face, mouth or body). It is a powerful act of communication and may show:
▪ Assurance other person is paying attention/ listening
In addition, looking at a person's eyes also lets you know where that person is looking. Humans are particularly adept at detecting what another person is looking at and can detect even a brief glance at parts of our body or over our shoulder, for example.
● Duration of eye contact
Eye contact longer than normal can have several different meanings.
▪ The person is listening, paying close attention to what the other is saying.
▪ The people like each other; We also look more at people we like and like people who look at us more.
▪ Accompanied by smiles and other signals, attraction or love. Attraction is also indicated by looking back and forth between the two eyes, as if we are desperately trying to determine if they are interested in us too. An attraction signal more commonly used by women is to hold the other person's gaze for about three seconds, then look down for a second or two and back up again (to see if they have taken the bait). If the other person is still looking at them, they are rewarded with a coy smile or a slight widening of the eyes ("Yes, this message is for you!").
▪ Domination, aggression, use of power, when long eye contact made without blinking, contracted pupils and an immobile face. The first person to look away admits defeat.
▪ Overcompensation for lying.
Eye contact that is shorter than normal
▪ Less eye contact is used when talking, particularly by people who are visual thinkers as they stare into the distance or upwards as they 'see' what they are talking about.
● Breaking eye contact
Because steady prolonged eye contact can be perceived as threatening, when we are conversing with someone we frequently look away and back again. Breaking eye contact can send other signals, such as:
▪ Unpleasant emotional reaction to what was just said (insulted, threatened, etc.)
▪ Uncomfortable reaction to what was just said (causes internal discomfort)
▪ Loss of interest
▪ Simple interruption of conversation.
DIRECTION: WHERE YOU LOOK TELLS A LOT
Where a person is looking is one of the truest indicator of what that person is thinking and feeling. One of the others, believe it or not, is your feet. The direction of the gaze reveals reliable information if you can read it. It's hard to look someone directly in the eye and lie. A number of charts have been developed which provide an easy-to-read guide.
In my descriptions I am using the chart to the left where the eye positions are as seen by an observer. Memory to the reader's right; imagination / creation to the reader's left.
Looking upward center is generally an indication the person is thinking or recalling something real, but it can also mean boredom, doubt, or disinterest. Unfocused upward eyes mean the visual is imagined, not remembered. This position is also connected with remembering smells.
Looking directly at another person in the eye can be an act of domination, a show of power. Therefore, looking down is often a sign of submission.
●Central Downward Focus
Looking directly down can also indicate that the person is feeling guilty. A notable way that a lower person looks down at a higher person is by tilting their head back. Even taller people may do this.
In many cultures where eye contact is a rude or dominant signal, people will look down when talking with others in order to show respect. It also can indicate remembering tastes.
When someone is looking upward and to the right, it is an indication they are remembering something using the visual channel in the brain. Something they saw and remembered.
When someone is looking to the bottom right (as seen by an observer), it is a sign they are having an internal dialog with themselves either out loud or inside their heads (observe crazy people when they are blabbering to themselves and they’ll usually be using this eye direction). Some resources indicated that a downward right focus can be a memory of taste.
● Left Upward Focus
When someone is looking to their top left, it is a sign they are imagining something using the visual construction channel in the brain. This is great for when asking a liar a question that requires memory (eg: Why didn’t you bring your homework today?) and instead of looking up and to the right to remember why…they look up and to the left to imagine something and make up an excuse. This also can show recalling a memory.
● Left Central Focus
When someone is looking to their center left, it is a sign they are imagining a sound using the auditory construction channel in the brain.
● Left Downward Focus
When someone is looking to their center left, it is a sign they are imagining a sound using the auditory construction channel in the brain.
● Lateral eye movement
Eyes moving from side-to-side may indicate shiftiness and lying, as though the person might be looking for an escape route. Lateral movement can also happen when the person is being conspiratorial, as though checking that nobody else is listening.
Be careful, because checking for others listening may occur if the conversation is private, or for other reasons other than a conspiracy. Eyes may also move back and forth sideways (and sometimes up and down) when the person is visualizing a big picture and is literally looking it over.
● Dampness / Shining Eyes
The tear ducts provide moisture to the eyes, both for washing them and for tears. The eyes have a tiny gland on the bottom of the eyelid secreting liquids such as tears for use as lubrication. When a person is interested or excited, the glands tend to secrete liquid thus giving the eyes a shiny appearance. This is an uncontrollable reaction.
Damp eyes can indicate suppressed weeping, indicating anxiety, fear or sadness, and can also occur when a person is tired (this may be accompanied by redness of the eyes).
● Eye Widening
Eye widening is a positive nonverbal cue indicating that someone is observing positive stimuli that bring them joy and happiness. The size of the eyes directly indicates how positive someone is about a topic or other stimuli. It can also indicate surprise or disbelief, as depicted by the photos above.
● Eye Rolling
Rolling the eyes around in a semi circle from bottom to top, or looking straight up reflects disbelief as in “I can’t believe you just said that” or “You’ve got to be kidding.”
● Pupil size
The other uncontrollable, eye-movement signal is the dilation of the pupil, when the size of the pupils increase, leaving a smaller ring of color around the pupils. The iris is actually a muscle tissue that expands and contracts to change the size of the pupils to allow more or less light into the eyes. Dilation is a subtle signal that is sometimes detected only subconsciously and is seldom realized by the sender is where the pupil gets larger (dilates) or contracts.
Other than allowing more light in order to see, dilated pupils means attracted, excited, or aroused. Sexual desire is a common cause of pupil dilation. When another person's eyes dilate, we may be attracted further to them and our eyes dilate in return. Likewise, when their pupils are small, ours may contract also.
People with dark irises may look attractive because it is difficult to distinguish the iris from the pupil, with the effect that their dark pupils look larger than they are. People with light irises make the pupils easier to see, so when their pupils actually do dilate then the signal is clearer to detect, making them more attractive 'at the right time'.
The reverse of this is that pupils contract when we do not like the other person, perhaps in an echo of squint-like narrowing of the eyes. Contracted pupils may also result from a negative reaction or anger.
Glancing at something -- taking a quick look, then averting the eyes -- can betray:
▪ A desire for that thing, for example glancing at the door can indicate a desire to leave.
▪ A desire to talk to a person.
▪ Concern for a person's feeling when something is said that might upset them.
▪ A desire to gaze at something or someone where it is forbidden to look for a prolonged
It can also mean that something attracted the person's momentary interest. Like every other aspect of reading body language, you have to be aware of other factors. Don't jump to conclusions on the basis of one or two indicators.
Ah! The editor's favorite word. A gaze can fly all over the place, but not the eyes. A gaze is looking at something with particular interest. When looking at a person, normally the gaze is at eye level or above. When you look at something, then others who look at your eyes will feel compelled to follow your gaze to see what you are looking at. This is a remarkable skill as humans are able to follow a gaze very accurately.
A unfocused gaze can indicate disinterest, as though the person is thinking about something else.
Some sources say that looking at a person's mouth can indicate that you would like to kiss them. I'm not so sure about this one. I often look at people's mouths when I feel self-conscious (for whatever reason) about looking at their eyes. The experts say that looking at sexual regions indicates a desire to have sexual relations with them.
Looking up and down at a whole person is usually sizing them up, either as a potential threat or as a sexual partner (notice where the gaze lingers). Gazing can be insulting since it may indicate a position of presumed dominance, as though the person effectively says 'I am more powerful than you, your feelings are unimportant to me and you will submit to my gaze'.
In conversation, gazing at a person’s forehead or beyond them indicates disinterest. It is difficult to conceal a gaze as we are particularly adept at identifying exactly where other people are looking. Humans have larger eye whites than animals, since this is a natural aid to complex communication.
● Staring / Ogling
Looking at someone is not bad. You can gaze, but not stare. Therein exists the social problem. When does a gaze become a stare, ogling, or an eyeball assault?
When the gaze is directed at another person and is constant, it becomes a stare (or worse, ogling) when the subject of the gaze becomes uncomfortable. If so, cut if off! Respect the other's feelings. You can tell if the person is uncomfortable. Staring at inanimate things like scenery, works of art, buildings, etc. is not a problem.
Staring is generally done with eyes wider than usual, prolonged attention to something and with reduced blinking, but in the case of men, it is often accompanied by nudging his companions or with an irritating or insulting grin. It generally indicates particular interest (negative or positive) in something or someone. The length of an acceptable stare varies across cultures, as does who is allowed to stare, and at what. Babies and young children stare more, until they have learned the cultural rules.
▪ Staring with eyes wide open and then back to normal can indicate shock and disbelief, particularly after hearing unexpected news, or surprise.
▪ Defocusing, turning attention to the inside of the head. What the person is staring at may be of no significance.
▪ Aggressive staring into another's eyes is usually more associated with aggressive action. The man and woman above are looking into each other's eyes, but I don't think either is suffering discomfort from the stare … something else, yes. Aggressive staring is more like a battle to achieve dominance over the other person.
▪ Competition - When a person stares at another, the second person may be embarrassed and look away. If they decide to stare back, then the people lock eyes and this may become a competition with the loser being the person who looks away first.
Most of the photographs I could find of "ogling" involved celebrities "caught in the act." Sorry guys! You did it, and someone else took the picture.
● Glaring / Glowering
Glaring is another form of staring which conveys disapproval.
● Eyeball Assault
This is a term used by scientists and psychologists who study this kind of behavior. Eyeball assault occurs when a person becomes overly aggressive with eye contact. Eye assault happens when men appear to undress women, or stare other men down. Women might appear to give dirty looks.
Assault is a matter of length and type of unbroken eye contact. This applies more to using the stare to establish dominance of another person, rather than ogling, which has more disrespectful or sexual overtones.
● Doe eyes/ Softening of the eyes
A softening of the eyes, with relaxing of muscles around the eye and a slight defocusing as the person tries to take in the whole person, is sometimes called doe eyes. It often indicates sexual desire, particularly if the gaze is prolonged and the pupils are dilated. The eyes may also appear shiny.
Blinking is a natural process whereby the eyelids wipe the eyes clean, much as a windshield wiper on a car. The eye blink rate refers to periods of excitement as it relates to an increase in blinking. The more we blink the more we are prepared for action as we keep our eyes moist. Pronounced eye blinking can happen during sexual arousal and attraction or while under pressure. A rapid series of eye blinks can also indicate an inner struggle or distress (or the person may have something in his eye).
▪ Stress - for any reason.
▪ Lying - Blinking could occur when the liar has to keep thinking about what they are saying. Realizing this, they may also force their eyes open and appear to stare.
▪ Rapport between people - People who are connected may blink at the same rate. Someone who is listening carefully to you is more likely to blink when you pause.
▪ A single blink can signal surprise that the person does not quite believe what they see.
Rapid blinking or extended eye blink blocks vision and can be an arrogant signal, saying "I am so important, I do not need to see you." They temporarily shut off the outside world as if it were irrelevant. They are sending a message to others that what they are doing and feeling isn’t worth their energy and thought and that they either bore them, or they are superior to you.
Rapid blinking also flutters the eyelashes and can be a coy romantic invitation, and reduced blinking increases the power of a stare, whether it is romantic or dominant in purpose.
Closing one eye in a wink is a deliberate gesture that often suggests conspiracy. "You and I both understand, though others do not." Winking can also be a slightly suggestive greeting and is reminiscent of a small wave of the hand.
● Closing The Eyes
Sometimes people close their eyes just to rest them or because they are tired, but the action sends signals which can be interpreted by others as:
▪ Closing the eyes shuts out the world. This can mean “I do not want to see what is in front of me, it is so terrible”.
▪ Sometimes when people are talking, they close their eyes. This is an equivalent to turning away so eye contact can be avoided and any implied request for the other person to speak is effectively ignored.
▪ Visual thinkers may also close their eyes, sometimes when talking, so they can better see the internal images without external distraction.
Tears rolling down the cheeks are often a symptom of extreme fear or sadness, although paradoxically you can also weep tears of joy. Weeping can be silent, with little expression other than the tears (indicating a certain amount of control). It also typically involves screwing up of the face and, when emotions are extreme, can be accompanied by uncontrollable, convulsive sobs. Men in many culture are expected not to cry and learn to suppress this response, not even being able to cry when alone. Even if their eyes feel damp they may turn away. Tears and sadness may be transformed into anger, which may be direct at whoever is available.
Watering eyes can be an indication of feeling uncomfortable. Often, to cover this and try to restore an appropriate dryness, people tend to rub their eyes and maybe even feign tiredness or having something in the eye. This also gives the opportunity to turn the head away.
The rubbing may be with one finger, with a finger and thumb (for two eyes) or with both hands. The more the coverage, the more the person is trying to hide behind the hands.
Narrowing of a person's eyes can indicate:
▪ Evaluation, perhaps considering that something told to them is not true (or at least not fully so).
▪ Uncertainty (“I cannot quite see what is meant here.”)
▪ When a person thinks about something and doesn't want to look at the internal image, they may involuntarily squint.
▪ The light is too bright.
Lowering of eyelids is not really a squint but can have a similar meaning. It can also indicate tiredness. Lowering eyelids while still looking at the other person can be a part of a romantic and suggestive cluster, and may be accompanied with other gestures.
● Eye Color
This one also happened to me. Don’t let your editor make you change the phrase His eyes darkened to His gaze darkened.
While the actual color of the eyes, which is determined by the amount of the pigments melanin and lipochrome, does not change with mood, the appearance of the eye color can change. That is the result of the way light reflects off the iris, creating the impression that the color of the eye has changed.
The face constantly makes voluntary and involuntary expressions. During changes in mood, the muscles around the eye contracts or relaxes, which changes the shape of the eye opening. While some of these changes are very small, even minute changes affect the amount and angle of the light hitting the eye. The amount of light can also cause contraction or dilation of the pupils which can affect the appearance of eye color.
These small effects change the way light is reflected, and in some instances, the eyes appear to change color. Also, make up and colors surrounding the face can make the eyes appear to change color. But, it’s not the gaze that has color. It is the eyes.
● Following Eyes
Last but not least. Sorry, “following” is the way all the articles and scientific papers refer to the phenomenon of eyes naturally keeping track of movement of any kind (i.e. following). If a person is looking at something of interest, then the eyes/gaze will naturally keep looking at it even when it moves. Eyes will also “follow” neutral or feared things in case the movement turns into a threat.
THREE POINTS TO REMEMBER
● First, human beings are particularly adept at reading body language, which provides more information than words. Understanding is intuitive, and doesn't need to be explained.
● Second, a substantial amount of body language gestures are reflexive and unconscious. Although it's possible to learn to control some of them -- not necessarily easy, but possible -- the eyes are among the hardest to control and certain aspects are uncontrollable.
● Third, all individual body language gestures can mean more than one thing and should be interpreted in relation to other gestures, activities, circumstances, and other kinds of information (particularly since it is possible for a person to control the body language gestures).
http://www.bodylanguageproject.com/dictionary/bodylanguage-dictionary-e-eyebrow-flash-eye-direction-eye-flash-energy-displacement-emblems - Extremely Good Reference