The Eyes Have It

“The eyes have one language everywhere.” – George Herbert

Whenever you have to work with others – whether you’re trying to accomplish a business or a personal objective – your ability to communicate is absolutely crucial. In fact, being a good communicator is one of the most important success skills you can develop. Today, I’ll teach you two simple techniques you can use to become a better, more persuasive communicator – at work, in your personal relationships, and with your customers.

But first, why are communication skills so important?

Let’s say you’re in a business meeting and you want to look good in front of your new supervisor. Here’s where your ability to communicate can help you sink or swim. You’ve got to get your ideas across in a succinct and effective manner, without looking like you’re blatantly trying to earn points.

Perhaps you’re in the opposite position. Maybe you just got a promotion and need to win over a new group of subordinates. Making this happen is largely dependent upon your communication skills.

And communication is just as important in your personal life. Maybe you’ve decided that you’ve got to relocate if you want to advance in your career, but your spouse is reluctant to make the move. Being able to make your case in a positive way can actually affect the rest of your life.

The art of communication is a complicated subject, but you can greatly enhance your communication skills simply by learning a few “tricks of the trade.” One of them is knowing how to read nonverbal cues. Research suggests that when you’re communicating in person with someone, as much as 93 percent of that communication is nonverbal.

Body language is a big part of nonverbal communication, but the eyes may be even more revealing. (You know the old saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul.”) And there are some specific techniques related to the eyes that you can use – whether you’re the one reading the message or the one sending it. Here are two that I’ve found to be very useful…

1. Become a Human Lie Detector

When a salesman is trying to convince you to buy his product, wouldn’t you like to feel confident that all the claims he’s making are for real? And what if you’re the one doing the selling? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know if your prospect is telling you the truth when he gives you his reason for passing on your offer? (After all, if you don’t know what his problem is, you’re not going to be able to overcome it!)

Well, there is no 100 percent foolproof way to determine whether someone is telling the truth, but the “Reid Technique of Police Interrogation” can help you figure out if you’re being lied to. The nine-step technique was developed by a police polygraph (lie detector) operator, John Reid, who observed his subjects’ behavior while he was administering the polygraphs.

The scientific basis for the technique is that when the brain is processing information, it sends signals to the body that are manifested in a physical way. The part of the technique that I want to talk about here has to do with the eyes.

Reid discovered that when people are remembering something, their eyes often move to the right… and that when they’re thinking (using the portion of the brain that deals with new images, sounds, and thoughts), their eyes often move to the left or upward. To take advantage of this behavior, the detective who will be doing the interrogating first engages the subject in some simple conversation, asking questions to establish a pattern for his involuntary movements. Then he moves into the “real” questions regarding the crime.

If, for example, the detective asks the subject where he was on the night the crime was committed and the subject’s eyes move to the left, that could indicate he’s trying to fabricate a story. On the other hand, if his eyes move to the right, he may simply be remembering (truthfully) where he was.

So when you ask your assistant why he missed an important deadline, or you ask your teenager why he didn’t call to let you know he’d be late… you might be able to use this technique to decide whether or not you should believe the answer.

2. Get People to Talk Without Saying a Word

Let’s say you want to encourage a certain employee to contribute more in your regular weekly meetings. Instead of making him feel self-conscious by calling on him during the meeting, you can use the power of your eyes to get him to speak up. published a study in which subjects were told that they were participating in a three-way video-conference with other participants – and that they were to attempt to solve language puzzles as a group. The “other participants” were actors whose images were electronically transmitted to the subjects – and during the so-called video-conference, they made various degrees of eye contact with the subjects (looking at the camera intensely, looking away, and so on). What the researchers discovered was that people in group discussions will speak up more if they receive a greater amount of eye contact from other group members.

Before I came across this technique, I was often frustrated when I was trying to get someone to open up to me and share their thoughts. Simply making eye contact with them made a huge difference.

Effective communication is critical to success in any endeavor. Knowing how to use the eyes to gauge truthfulness and to encourage people to speak up are just two of the powerful communication skills you should develop.

[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence is a produced screenwriter, direct-mail copywriter, and business author. He is also the creator of the Quick and Easy Microbusiness System, ETR’s program for starting a business for under $100. For more easy strategies you can use to become a more effective communicator, click here.]