“The eyes are the window to the soul.” –Traditional Proverb
Our eyes tell people what we are thinking. They can sparkle and twinkle and laugh just as easily as they can shoot daggers. Making eye contact not only lets others know what you are thinking, it encourages them to give you their attention.
My father was an extraordinary salesman. Before “motivational speakers” went on circuits or were hired by corporations to pump up sales staff, my father chose on his own to become his own motivator. He would spout crystallized gems from the books he read by Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. He taught himself to excel as a businessman. And even more than that, he taught me what he had learned about people.
“What do people like to talk about?” he would quiz me on trips to the store in the car. “Themselves,” I would say, the answer he had ingrained into me by the time I was seven or eight. “That’s right,” he would praise.
“So what do you ask people about when you talk to them?”
Again, I would answer correctly. “Themselves.”
At the same time, he would “practice” meeting and greeting with me. “Give me a firm handshake, “ he encouraged. “And look me right in the eye.” We’d practice shaking hands and smiling at each other, my light brown eyes purposefully gazing into his crystal blue ones. Many evenings, after we had run through these exercises, I’d hear him put on an Earl Nightingale recording.
I never forgot those important lessons. And I’ve never shied away from a firm handshake and a look in the eye. It’s a connection that we humans have in a business setting that, unlike the animal kingdom, is non-threatening.
Think about a newborn baby, whose eyes are fixated on its closest surroundings. When you look into a baby’s face, your eyes meet. There is nonverbal communication being passed between you. The baby, not yet able to speak, is learning by staring intently into your eyes, reading your face.
Eye contact is a learned social skill. But like learning to tie your shoes or play the piano, you must practice it to perfect it. When you are speaking, you want to convey warmth and trustworthiness, and by looking into your eyes, others can see and hear your message. An engaging, emotional message that is important and impactful. That’s how my father, the salesman, connected with me. And his eyes told me things I knew came straight from his heart.
When you share a story that is your truth and is coming from the deepest part of you, your soul, it resonates with those around you. It connects. Just like eye contact.
A truthful, engaging, emotional message is just that. And your eyes are just the windows reflecting the genuineness of that message.
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- A Firm Handshake and a Look in the Eye: How I Connected with my Dad - March 30, 2016