Open Wide

Eye communication is sometimes so subtle that you can sense the message coming from the ocular area without knowing why you’re responding the way you are. Squinty eyes, half-closed eyes, and wide-open eyes all have their own means of communicating with the outside world. What if you’re sending the wrong message? Have no fear; the fixes for these situations are actually quite simple, as you’ll read in this section.

Get Those Eyes Checked!

Squinting at people when they’re speaking to you tells them that you’re very doubtful of their integrity and/or competence. Now, you might be having trouble seeing—a very common cause of the squint—but other people won’t necessarily know that. All they see is you, squinting and staring as though you’re attempting to find the truth in this person’s face—and failing.

While squinting is sometimes caused by poor eyesight, it can also be the result of your personal anatomy or it might simply be an unfortunate habit. People might also respond to a threatening situation by narrowing their eyes. (Picture Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.) Whatever the case, lose the squint if you want to appear friendly and open-minded. Force those lids open, either by reminding yourself to do so or by getting some contacts or glasses, and you’ll see that others will view you differently—namely, they won’t think of you as someone who’s always looking for the flaw or potential danger in a situation.

Sorry I’m Boring You

Let’s say you’re visiting your doctor, relaying your most troubling symptoms, sharing the most personal sort of information with him … and he looks at you with his eyes half-closed. Are you boring him, or is this his way of telling you that your prognosis isn’t good? Before you start writing your will on the paper covering the examination table, consider that this might be the way your doc looks at everyone, in every situation, good or bad.

An open eye indicates that you’re fully present in the moment: You’re engaged in the conversation, the wheels are turning in your head, and you actually care about what the other person is saying.

The half-closed eye is interpreted as a sign of boredom and/or fatigue. If you tend to walk around with your eyelids at half-mast, then you’re probably used to people being a little standoffish or offended by you, but perhaps you’ve never realized why. Because of their anatomical structure, some people physically can’t hold their eyelids open all the way. Plastic surgery can correct this condition, but for people who’d rather not go under the knife, there are plenty of other ways to show interest in what someone else is saying. Eye contact (which will be discussed shortly), smiling, and angling the body toward the other person will help compensate for eyes that don’t look 100 percent alert.

Double-Wide Eyes?

If half-closed eyes indicate boredom, then you can go ahead and assume that wide-open eyes show interest in another person. Just don’t go wild—there’s no need for you to look googly-eyed if you can help it. Eyes that are too open (as wide as possible so that the entire white of the eye is showing) can appear fearful or intimidated.

If your eyes are naturally wider than most others’, there are ways to overcome misinterpretations of your ocular language. Keep your eye contact a bit briefer than what’s considered polite (you’ll read about this in the following section), and use friendly body language cues (smiling, proper angling, friendly touches when appropriate) to assure others that you are neither anxious nor domineering.

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