Monday, February 19, 2007

The Language of the Eyes

The Language of the Eyes

Like most Americans, I speak English exclusively. I studied French eagerly for years. Unfortunately, my school’s methods taught me into confused silence. Learning language was simply not fun or connected to my desire to using language fluidly. It was drill and kill.

Today, I am a mature woman possessing a nursery school level of French language skill. Oui…un petite peu…tres, tres petite. In a meeting last week with a native French speaker, I was able to awkwardly ask for the salt in French. Pitiful. I have not even mastered Restaurant French 101. C’est domage.

Recently, I’ve tried to learn Japanese. On my own, no formal instruction. I’m trying a new tactic, “Learn to Speak Japanese in your Car” is a new purchase to support my thirst for learning language. Ironically, I have no car! I live in the city, so my Japanese practice is left to…”matane”, meaning “later” as the Japanese say. So when I rent a car, I can practice “deska”-ing… driving the Jersey Turnpike.

I want to have some facility with language as I travel to make connections with people so my cultural currency can rise. I want to be seen as genuine. But, I haven’t got time to invest in learning words .I think it best that I abandon speaking and focus on learning another universal language, the Language of the Eyes.

Research supports this notion of the Language of the Eyes, and our human need to look. Without skill at knowing a language, a few well placed sincerely connected phrases and very sure eye work can advance you in business or travel situations. And these tools can be useful at home and on the job in your own backyard. Drawing on the fact that 80% of our brains are wired to be social, and that poets for years have celebrated the eyes as the windows of the soul, why not blend the world of science and art and school yourself? You’ll create a more connected, personable and confident presence in any room around the world.

I test this theory as I travel in Europe and Asia and have gotten great feedback. So strong, in fact, that I devote a lot of time to Eye Work in my book on Networking, “Trish Rubin’s New York MINUTE guide to Event Networking”. It seems people, especially young people who spend 18,000 hours in front of TV and computer screens before they graduate from college, need to learn the tools of basic social communication like eye work, tools once taught by mature family members to the young.

ESSENTIAL SKILL Using your eyes is a skill and the tools of GAZING are necessary. There is a difference in using your eyes to survey a room as opposed to making direct eye contact. This skill can be taught to the point where it becomes a natural trait, and one that you can tailor depending on the situation. A conference table meeting, a big event, a one on one interview all require different types of eye work. This can be taught, especially if you are feeling less than confident about speaking the Language of the Eyes.

TAKE THE PLUNGE If you are the person who’s always staring at your shoes, or worse creating hyperactivity with a roving eye that can’t be settled practicing each day with yourself, in the mirror, or on the street can help. Also, making direct eye contact with doormen as you stroll, or greeting people with your eyes ,people in your building aboard an elevator for instance, is a safe way to push yourself to making and briefly holding eye contact. Learning to do this helps prepare you for when it counts, on the job or in your personal life with those you want to make a deep impression upon. And it doesn’t matter if you enter a room where people do not speak your language. A welcoming, friendly eye gaze can begin to draw people to you. With a few genuine phrases in the language of the culture, you will find yourself more connected and confident than you’d be glaring into a guidebook for the right translation.

Truly, in today’s techno charged world, face to face is still important. Making connections with friends online in social networks is one skill, but the real challenge of holding attention of another person is done not at a computer, it’s done in real time. In any language, the “Eyes have it”, as the saying goes. If yours, don’t, you could be missing out on the most powerful part of face to face communication. It’s worth looking into.

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