The Eyes Have It!

We speak about 100 words per minute, yet we have the capability to think at up to 800 words per minute. Where do you think those extra thought words go? Our brain is processing something. But what? At the same time that we are listening to someone speak, our brain is processing a myriad of other audible sounds as well. If we are close enough to hear it, our auditory system is processing it. Those sounds that we are not focused on, our brain is storing in another part of our memory cache.

The information we receive audibly is only a small portion of what is being communicated. The greatest receptors of what is being communicated is through our vision. Our eyes receive the majority of all that is communicated to us. As you learn how to read what the eyes of others are telling you, think on the communication of your own eyes. What your eyes and body language communicate, will play a considerable role in how others relate to you.

Our natural bent is to make eye contact for a few seconds, looking away briefly every 30-45 seconds. If someone’s speaking is enthralling to you, your eye contact may remain for longer periods. Continual eye contact is simply not in our DNA. But good eye contact is critical in communication. Good eye contact reveals trustworthiness for the listener and respect for the person speaking.

There also is much being communicated when a person breaks eye contact, even if only for a brief few seconds. Learning these communication points will lead you strongly in understanding the primary message of what is being verbally spoken. Learning these will also assist you in understanding what you might be communicating as you break eye contact.

Breaking eye contact is natural. Over the course of fourteen years in the corporate world I conducted more than 5,000 job interviews. This is where I first began studying body language and eye contact. There were several interesting lessons learned during that period.

One of those lessons dealing with breaking eye contact is an interviewee looking toward the exit. When the person you are speaking with is uncomfortable, it is common for that person to glance toward the exit door. Not once, but every few seconds. This is a subconscious action, but as the interviewer, I often found it amusing. Continual glancing toward the exit is a subconscious statement, “I do not want to be here.” It is as if that person is planning his escape route.

The eyes also reveal other pertinent information as they break eye contact. Certain eye movements without gazing at a particular spot or area of the room reveal some of the greatest non-verbal information you can capture. Chapter three in Coaching: A Way of Leadership, A Way of Life is titled, The Eyes Have It, gives an eye opening (no pun intended) view of what the eyes communicate and how to read this communication.


George Yates is a coach and Church Health Strategist assisting individuals, churches and other organizations in reaching their full God-given potential.