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Silent Communication

The face and eyes are eloquent message conveyers.  Someone has estimated that humans are capable of 20,000 different facial expressions.  How do you measure up?

The most pleasant, and usually the most advantageous, is a smile.  A smile can be the little bit of sugar that helps the medicine go down.  It is always more pleasant to deal with people who smile than with those who frown.

The psalmist tells us that the eye is "the light of the body."  The unvoiced testimony it offers is often the most eloquent.

Most people interpret a firm, steady gaze as a sign of sincerity.  Darting, shifty eyes are interpreted as signs of untrustworthiness.  A quick wink can convey a secret message silently across a crowded room.  A coquettish look can set a heart to fluttering.

The ability to look someone in the eye is a sign of high self-esteem.  When children fib to their parents, they usually look at the floor.  It's hard to have self-esteem while you're telling a lie.

Steady eye contact is also a sign of assertiveness.  People who consistently avoid the eyes of those to whom they speak are inviting others to treat them as doormats.

A Baptist minister in Moscow once told an American reporter an interesting story about the Russian poet Evgeny Yevtushenko.

Visiting a wealthy American, the poet noticed a magnificent moose head mounted on the wall of the home.

"How could you bear to shoot such a magnificent animal?" Yevtushenko asked.

"It was easy," said his host.  "He didn't look me in the eye.  If he had looked me in the eye, I couldn't have shot him."

A word of caution, though: Different cultures respond to eye contact in different ways.  A gaze that may seem friendly to an American may be considered intrusive by an Asian.

Even in the American culture, steady eye contact can be overdone.  Most people feel uncomfortable when they're the objects of fixed, steady gazes.  The most effective eye contact consists of a relaxed, steady gaze that is broken off intermittently.  A good way to develop this habit is to look at someone and slowly count (in your head!) to three.  This is usually the appropriate length of time to sustain a gaze in one-on-one conversations.

Sometimes, angry conversation leads to mutual glares in which each party tries to outstare the other.  Don't be led into this kind of contest.  If you find your eyes locked in a stare with an angry customer, it's okay to break contact first.  In fact, one theory holds that the dominant person will break contact first, since the dominant person takes the lead in all things.

copyright Nido R Qubein

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