North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

July 30, 2010

Body language includes the eyes of your clients

By Teresa Vise
The North Jefferson News

FULTONDALE — Let’s visit this week some more on the useful understanding of body language in the terms of our professional conversations. I had several comments of interest to learn more on the topic, so let’s spend some time learning about the eyes.

Our ability to “read” people’s eyes without knowing how or why seems to be inborn. Humans are able to make eye contact from about 100 to 130 feet away well past the distance where we can really see the detail of someone's eyes. We can see whether someone is really focused on us or not, and we can detect the difference between the glazed blank stare, the drop dead look, the embarrassed awkward glance or the moist eyes of fighting back tears.

When we additionally consider the eyelids, and the flexibility of the eyes to widen and close, and for the pupils to enlarge or contract, it becomes easier to understand how the eyes have developed such potency in human communications.

One subtle measure is the widening of the pupils when someone of emotional interest walks into a room.  

Eyes tend to look right when the brain is imagining or creating, and left when the brain is recalling or remembering. This relates to the right and left sides of the brain. Broadly stated, the parts of the brain handling creativity and feelings dwells in the right while and facts and memory hang out in the left. The research behind this is called Neuro-linguistics Programming (NLP) theory was developed in the 1960s and has its range of skeptics and supporters.

In general, NLP delves into the idea that there are patterns of behavior and patterns of thought that underlie them. The research and theory is used today in organizational development strategy and organizational change management. In this example it centers on the idea that under certain circumstances “creating” can really mean lying. So if a person looks right when asked a question requiring a recall of facts, they may be making those facts up. Or it could mean that the person isn't really lying, but is uncertain of the answer, and is creatively speculating.

Either way it may be good to know that a look right in search for an answer to a direct question means that the person is probably lying or guessing according to this theory. What you really want to see is a direct straight on look with the direct straight on answer.  

NLP theory and the Mehrabian’s model that we discussed here in a previous article are both seminal pieces of work in understanding behavior, and it’s amazingly helpful in explaining the importance of careful and appropriate communications. And like any model, care must be exercised when transferring it to different situations.

The idea may not work as cleanly when you consider communication via email, telephone or video conferencing when so much of the communication “package” is eliminated. Imagine how you feel when you receive a text message with a request that is followed by multiple question marks and exclamation points as opposed to a :-), or the message that you send when you pause a long time before speaking on the telephone.

The reader or listener in each example gets the message loud and clear that the sender or speaker is irritated, anxious or impatient.

One suggestion here for you is to put a mirror by the phone if you do a considerable amount of phone work to check your facial expression while speaking. You may surprise yourself to see what you are really saying.

Here is a suggestion on texting for you too: Don't do it while driving. Enough said.

Remember, take care of your customers, or someone else will.

You can find additional readings on my blog at http://businessadvise4u.blogspot.com. Teresa Vise works for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and supports the Fultondale Chamber of Commerce.

The next meeting of the Fultondale Chamber will be held for lunch on August 24 with Logan Hinkle, attorney with Burr and Forman. He will present on Health Reform legislation and how to prepare your business for the impact. Location and sponsorship by the Holiday Inn in Fultondale.