Through the Art of Eye Contact
I am a staunch believer that eyes are indeed a window to the soul. Windows into who we are. Eyes can say a great deal and do so without words.
Because our eyes can be so revealing, is this why making eye contact with those we walk by on the street is a challenge? Are we afraid that our souls will spill out onto the pavement and we’ll melt like the wicked witch of the west?
Or is it that we do not have the inclination or time to acknowledge someone with a nod or smile? Too much work with what we might perceive as having little benefit.
I suppose we are so engrossed in our own lives, and daily mundane tasks that there is little energy to exert much beyond that body armor we create. Or maybe we are so protective of what little joy and happiness we experience, that we fear it will diminish if someone else sees it in our eyes. Sad, if true.
Relax, no full fledged conversations need to take place. It is just a brief but potentially impactful moment.
Smile – It will Improve your Face Value
My mother used to say this to me because I was such a grump as a teenager. Engrossed in my own teen despair. I hated when she would say this to me, but of course she was right.
I grew up believing that a glance and smile make others feel comfortable or at least a little less uncomfortable. But, I am not stupid friendly to the point of being taken advantage of by some unscrupulous characters. I have learned through the years to read the room. I honed my observations skills early in life.
It seems part of not acknowledging our fellow citizens on the street is our incessant hurried state of being and our general distrust of others. The first time I visited NYC in the early 1990’s, the sidewalks were filled with hoards of people moving like robots. Their stone faces were an indication of their state of mind or at least the temporary shield they were sporting. Protecting them until they got to their destination of comfort and familiarity. No time to smile. No time to create a moment.
Steering Wheel Hand Wave
My father drove a great deal for his job and practiced the art of the steering wheel hand wave. It was a simple and communal gesture of acknowledging others on the road, especially when in the middle of nowhere. It always seemed a rural state kind of signal common among farmers and grain truck drivers.
But I experience evidence of these gestures in cities and towns especially when traffic is moving slow, allowing us to let someone slip in front of us or waving to a pedestrian to cross where there is no walkway.
And although there is no direct eye contact there is a momentary recognition of that person. I consider this a pay it forward kind of gesture. Do it once and it can often spread throughout the day.
It’s indicative of a self awareness and realization that one personal action has a ripple effect.
Pulling the Wool Over Our Eyes
I came across a few articles that discussed the physiological reasons why our eyes are so telling.
“When people are sad or worried, they furrow their brow, which makes the eyes look smaller. Yet when people are cheerful, we correctly call them “bright-eyed.” That’s because people raise their eyebrows when they’re happy, making the eyes look bigger and brighter.”
“We can tell a true (or Duchenne) smile from a fake by looking at a person’s eyes. The mouth shape of a smile is easy to fake—we do it all the time out of politeness. But the eyes are the giveaway: When we’re truly happy, we not only smile but also crinkle the corners of our eyes in a “crow’s feet” pattern. But when people fake a smile, they usually forget about their eyes. Psychology Today, David Ludden, PHd (2015)
This brings me back to the saying “Smile, it improves your face value”. True, but only if it is sincerely given and received.
If I am being honest, I do employ the fake smile when doing otherwise would result in a face off or wasteful confrontation. Sometimes it is necessary, fake smile and all, in order to move on.
Now if the person receiving my fake smile was even remotely paying attention, they would notice that my eyes were not in tune with the rest of my face. I think part of the point here is to be aware of overall facial expressions. They will often tell you what you need to know. Many of us became acutely aware of this fact during the pandemic when masks were worn regularly.
Eyes Are the Window to the Soul – What Does that Mean?
“You can use “eyes are the window to the soul” when you’re trying to impress on someone that their facial micro-expressions will give away the truth and their intentions. Most people are unable to control their micro-expressions, and small movements in the eyes give away what they really think if you understand how to read them.” Eyes are Windows to the Soul – Meaning, Origin and Usage Pearson
The fact that we cannot control our eye movements, is fascinating.
I think back to the years my daughter was in her addiction and how often she would say, “I’m fine”, when clearly she was not. If I was paying attention, noticing her eyes would tell me a whole different story. She was trying so damn hard to make me feel okay despite her own pain. Through her sad and beautiful blue eyes, her soul was crying out. A window to her soul.
“Some experts, whose jobs require them to study faces, have observed that eyes are the window to the soul because they’re the most sincere part of the face. We don’t have any control over our eyes, as opposed to the mouth, for example. When you like something, your pupils dilate involuntarily and give you away, and they contract as a sign of rejection. “
“This has been called social face. For example, in sad moments when we feel the urge to laugh, our expression keeps its composure. On this subject, Teresa Baró stated that this doesn’t mean we’re liars, since we live in a society that demands certain patterns of behavior that we must maintain as a manner of survival.”
“We’re not liars because we can’t be. We can voluntarily make our facial expressions and movements more appropriate, but we can’t stop our eyes from reflecting how we feel.” Exploring Your Mind – Psychology June 2015
If only we could all be more aware of the nuances involved in our everyday lives and in this instance, our facial expressions. The truth is right there in front of us. We cannot lie, our bodies do not allow it.
Image: Nuances XXXXIII, monotype, 12″ x 9″
This piece is part of a series of 40 plus monotypes I created, each inspired by nuances inspired by nature. Noticing the little things is a pleasure I have learned to appreciate and feel grateful to recognize. The subtleties we notice in ourselves, our reactions to our environment, and toward others are key to understanding or at least coming to terms with what is true for us. Our windows to the soul.