When You are Thanked, Don’t Say “No Problem”

April 9, 2019

I wrote the core of this article several years ago, and it was so popular that I am dusting it off with some additional information and ideas to enhance the analysis. The article is about the habit of replying “No problem” when someone says “Thank you.”

Pay attention, and you will hear this phrase used very often, especially when people do a service for you. The practice sends a wrong signal, and represents a missed opportunity. Here’s a true story to illustrate why the phrase should be avoided.

My wife and I were out to dinner a while ago and ran into a very personable young waiter named Kyle. This young man was still in college, and he was working to earn money and looking for his future. I really liked this waiter because he made great eye contact, and he was polite but not intrusive.

He had one annoying habit that was a distraction from the otherwise stellar impression that he created, but he was unaware of the habit. Every time he would do something, like refresh my water, I would say, “Thank you,” and he would reply, “No problem.”

For a while I just let it pass and did not think about it, but eventually I recognized that his response was a habit that was undermining his good impression.

The statement “No problem” is really not a bad thing to say, but it does represent a missed opportunity to build rapport and trust with the other person. Reason: the statement does not represent a proactive positive response to gratitude. Instead, it reflects a kind of throw-away line that I, the customer, am not that important to him. The effect is very subtle, so the negative impression is not severe, but a more upbeat response, or at least some variety of responses, would work much better.

A simple “You’re welcome” would be better than “No problem,” but there could be hundreds of more creative and memorable statements the young man could have used that would further entrench the good impression we had of him. Remember, he has plenty of time to prepare creative comebacks because he pours water for people every day.

For example, in response to “thank you” after he poured the water, he might have said, “We double-filter all of our water before we serve it to our guests.” He could have blown me away with a statement like, “We never serve water that is warmer than 47 degrees. Depending on the customer, some levity might be fun:  “It is for your protection, sir.  In this restaurant, an empty water glass makes the sprinklers go off.”

Another tack might be to demonstrate respect by responding, “I am honored,” or “It’s my pleasure to be of service.” One reader (Timothy Burchfield) commented on my prior article that his employer, Horst Schulze of The Ritz-Carlton, insists that team members use the phrase “My Pleasure.”  I love the Ritz Carlton vision: “The Ritz-Carlton inspires life’s most meaningful journeys,” and their motto: “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”  It has the true ring of respect.

The response of “no problem” also effectively closes the exchange and stops conversation. It may be possible to continue the exchange by asking an open ended question when presented with “Thank you.” For example, suppose the waiter had said, “This is special spring water; isn’t it the best tasting water you’ve had for a long time?” That would be a great way to not only differentiate the waiter but also the establishment.

The young waiter had to realize that he was serving expensive food to people who could afford it, so every night he was making impressions on people who could potentially influence his life. He was missing some valuable opportunities. I took the time to compliment Kyle on his demeanor and give him some coaching on his habitual response to gratitude. He got the message and was truly thankful for it because he had never given the matter any thought. It was just something he was used to saying.

You may have the same habit or know someone else who does. The response to a “Thank you” should be thought of as a great opportunity to differentiate yourself from the pack, whether you are in a customer service occupation or not. Don’t waste the opportunity with a throw-away line like, “No problem.”

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Leading Effective Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Body Language 22 The Forehead

April 6, 2019

The forehead is an interesting area of body language. This area of the body is not as expressive as the eyes or mouth, and yet knowing how to interpret certain signals can be very helpful when you are trying to piece together a cluster of gestures into a strong signal.

A wrinkled forehead is always seen in conjunction with raised eyebrows. If you try to wrinkle your forehead without raising your eyebrows, you will see it is difficult or impossible to do. The normal interpretation of wrinkled forehead is surprise or skepticism. It is physically possible to wrinkle only one side of the forehead, but it takes so much effort that you rarely see that gesture. However, just as it is possible to lift one eyebrow more than the other, so too is it possible to have more wrinkles on one side of the face.

To catch the proper interpretation of a raised forehead, look at the mouth. If the mouth is wide open in the shape of an “O” then you can be sure the forehead is signaling surprise. If the lips are pursed or clenched, then the forehead is projecting skepticism or anger.

Hitting the forehead with open palm usually is a sign of exasperation, normally with one’s self. The gesture means “how stupid of me,” or “how could I have missed that before?” This gesture is the subtle form of banging your head against the wall to knock some sense into it.

The forehead is often the first visible area of the body that sweats when a person is overwrought, worried, or otherwise overheated. In negotiations, I used to watch my opponent for tiny beads of sweat on the forehead. It was one indication the other party was under stress and ready to make a concession.

Some hair styles for both women and men obscure the forehead from view. If a person’s bangs hang down to the tops of the eyebrows, you are not going to read forehead signals. You can infer a raised forehead when the bottom of the bangs is lowered into the region of the pupils.

Touching the forehead with the tips of the fingers can have two different meanings depending on the position of the hand. If the hand is straight and the index finger touches the forehead, it is a greeting sign, like a salute. If the first three fingers touch the forehead at the same time, It means the person is in deep thought. This gesture is often accompanied by closed eyes in an attempt to shut out distracting sights.

Rubbing of the forehead or temples is a sign of a person in deep thought. Generally the person’s thumb will be planted on one side of the forehead and the other fingers will slide back and forth in a linear or circular pattern. This person wants to be left alone to work on his or her problem.

The forehead is but one of the countless signals in body language. The important skill is to be able to piece together a mosaic of the many different parts of the face and body to come up with an accurate way to figure out the true meaning. The more you can practice this skill the more adept you will be at being able to read others accurately.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Colorful Communication

April 2, 2019

When you communicate with other people verbally, in writing, or even in emails and texts, be particular about how you phrase things to draw upon the imagination of the receiver.

Avoid stilted language or jargon that may confuse some people.  Also, try to avoid cliches, such as “failure is not an option,” or “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Try to paint a picture that is vibrant with colorful imagery. Use words as surrogates for a paintbrush, and actually let images flow into your words like paint onto a canvas. The idea is to use analogies, as I just did with the paint. Analogies allow us to span the gaps between ideas that are created by the limitations of words.

The idea is to use colorful words. Clarity of expression is not only more entertaining, it actually helps build higher trust between people because the thoughts are fresh and vibrant.

What are colorful words? Well, “color” is a great colorful word. We can see in our mind’s eye the difference between flat black & white information and full color. We hardly ever think about the complex interplay of hues that surround us every day.

Take a moment now and look around your current environment. Notice the colors, textures, and shapes. We are so used to viewing these things that we often take them for granted.

When you write, try to liven up the text with word descriptions that tickle the senses of your readers. If I use the word “pretty” to describe a scene, it will send a certain message. Using the word “breathtaking” magnifies that message like looking at a panorama through a telescope. I can either “mow the lawn” or I can “shear the aromatic fescue.” I can “take a deep breath,” or I can “breathe in the giant pines.” I can “be glad it is spring,” or I can “welcome the first robin on the lawn.”

You can use colorful images to convey emotions and events in the business world as well. You can say “he was angry” or you can say “his flared nostrils and clenched jaw were obvious.” You can say the meeting was “good” or you can say “the meeting was incredibly refreshing.” Next time you want to compliment someone on a fantastic performance, you can say “Congratulations, you did really well on that,” or you can say, “You must feel like you just caught the winning touchdown pass in the Superbowl.”

How can you use more colorful language? One way to broaden your vocabulary is to make good use of a thesaurus. In every note, try to send out a word that is unusual for you, but more accurate to the context than the word you would normally use. One caveat: be careful not to overdo the analogies or use of colorful words. It can be annoying if you take it too far. For example, here is a colorful note followed by a similar note with too much color.

Good colorful language

“You were refreshing in that meeting, because your ideas crackled with potential. Your points were crisp, and you prevented the group from becoming stuck on trivial issues. Nice going. We need more people like you who can think clearly and not become distracted by petty gripes.”

Overdone colorful language and use of clichés

“Your performance in the meeting was magnificent. Your discussion was as clear as a mountain stream and you kept the group out of the quagmire of repetitious arguments. People like you are as scarce as hen’s teeth. You have the unique ability to keep people from complaining all the time like a nagging backache.”

In developing colorful language, try to avoid the use of hackneyed expressions and clichés. There is an art to weaving words into a cohesive note. A good note should have a directional flow without the need to double back on some issues. If you find yourself writing, “as I said before…” you need to go back and revise the flow.

Put a little spice and adventure in your notes and spoken communications.  You will find that people appreciate the thought and respond better to your ideas.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.
Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, and Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders. Contact Bob at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or
585-392-7763.


Body Language 21 The Mouth

March 30, 2019

Body language gestures of the mouth are usually straightforward, but there are some tricky nuances to consider. First we will consider the most recognizable gesture: the smile. Actually, there are many different types of smiles to identify.

Smiles

Duchenne Smile – This is a highly recognizable smile, but only a small portion of the population can model it well. The smile actually starts with the eyes. You can see a twinkle in the eye and a slight but natural squint that produces crow’s feet at the corners. The cheeks are elevated and the entire face, including the mouth takes the shape of an oval.

The corners of the mouth are raised through the Zygomatic Major Muscle. Those people who can accomplish a Duchenne Smile have a huge advantage, because trying to force the face to this configuration often looks phony as described below.

Non-Duchenne Smile – this is where the mouth forms a shape by raising the corners of the mouth through the Zygomatic Major muscle but without the effect of “smiling eyes.” The smile is confined to the mouth region only, so it does not have the holistic appearance of a true Duchenne Smile and often is interpreted as being duplicitous or at least insincere.

The Botox Smile – This smile looks pasted on and is perfunctory for service people who wish to look pleasant but it comes across as insincere. It is also known as the “Pan Am” smile after flight attendants who were instructed to flash a pasted-on smile at each customer. This smile is also seen on the faces of beauty pageant contestants while they are being judged. My friend Jeanne Robertson has a whole comedy routine about how she learned to smile continuously while competing in the Miss America Pageant.

Tight Lipped Smile – As the name implies, this smile is characterized by not showing any teeth. Depending on the circumstance, this smile can convey approval or precaution. According to Bill Acheson in “Advanced Body Language,” one cardinal rule when meeting a person for the first time is to smile naturally but make it broad enough that you show your teeth. He explains that the custom is a carry over from when the condition of a person’s teeth was an indication of health and status.

Pulled Smile – also know as the “smug smile” this is where the mouth is pulled to a smile configuration, but on one side only. Generally, this configuration suggests some form of agenda going on, and it is not a smile that invites high trust in the individual. The extreme form of a pulled smile was demonstrated by McKayla Maroney in the 2012 Olympics when she was awarded the silver medal in the vault. She contorted her face pulling her mouth entirely to one side to indicate she was “not impressed” with the performance of the other gymnasts or the judges. This contorted smile was made into a meme that became a PR issue.

Laughing Smile – Occasionally you will see a person make a smile with his or her mouth wide open. This is known in some circles as the “Marilyn Monroe” smile. It is as if there was a laugh that was frozen in time. This smile also tends to lower trust, because it is seen as less than authentic.

Frowns

Classic Frown – We are all familiar with a frown brought on by the person feeling negative about something. The lips are pulled downward and often the head and gaze go down as well. This is the look you see on football players’ faces when they have lost a close game. Another place to see a classic frown is at a funeral. This is also the habitual expression on the face of Donald Trump when he is trying to negotiate something.

Clenched Teeth – This type of frown has the additional element of clenched teeth, which causes the jaw muscle to pop out. I once had a boss who did this whenever he was really upset. It was a telltale sign to watch out if his jaws popped out and became red.

Puffed Cheeks – Occasionally you may encounter a person who frowns but then fills up his cheeks with air. This is an indication of exasperation; it is like the person is getting ready to blow up.

Other Mouth Gestures

Puckering up – This gesture can have different meanings based on the context. It may mean that the person is deep in thought. It could mean you are getting the kiss off by the individual. If done softly and delicately it may be an actual signal of blowing a kiss.

Twitching – Some people will have an involuntary twitch. Most common is the twitch of the upper lip. If you see this gesture in a person, it may be habitual and be of little significance in terms of body language. Watch to see if the twitch comes just after a particular person addresses him or when something that may be sensitive comes up. If a person twitches during stressful conversation, it is a great clue to use when observing his level of stress in the future. I knew a university dean who would twitch whenever he was stressed. He was aware that he was sending signals, but he could not stop it.

Covering the Mouth – The classical interpretation of this gesture is that the person is lying or telling a half truth and covers his mouth to avoid detection. That may be true in some circumstances, but covering the mouth can also be a reaction to being embarrassed; it may also be out of fear of halitosis the discovery of bad teeth. The best advice when you see a person covering his or her mouth is to gather more data to see if there is some pattern.

Wiping the Mouth – This may be a function of the saliva getting into the corners of the mouth. Some people struggle with that problem and need to wipe their mouth many times when speaking in public.

Biting the Lip – This gesture is usually related to insecurity, and it is normally the lower lip that is involved. As with all body language, it is important to notice the pattern of making this gesture. If it is at a logical point where the person may be feeling insecure, then the interpretation is likely correct. There could be another cause, so be alert for other signals. Bill Clinton was famous for using this gesture in his more infamous moments.

The gestures in this article were some of the more common mouth configurations you are likely to encounter. There are other, more subtle gestures you may see as well. The best advice is to keep track of a person’s habitual behavior, and then you can use that baseline pattern to assess what is happing with the individual.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


The Benefits of a High Trust Environment

March 26, 2019

The advantages of working in a high trust environment are evident to everyone from the CEO to the shop floor, from suppliers to customers, and even the competition. Building and maintaining trust within any organization pays off with many benefits.

Here are 12 benefits of working in a high trust culture:

1. Problems are easier to solve – because the energy is on the real problem, and people are not afraid to suggest creative solutions.
2. Focus is on the mission – rather than interpersonal protection.
3. Efficient Communication – less need to “spin” information.
4. Less unrest – little need for damage control.
5. Passion for the work – that is obvious to customers.
6. A real environment – no need to play head games.
7. People respect each other – less bickering and wasting time.
8. Fewer distractions – things get done right the first time.
9. Leaders allowed to be human – can make a mistake and not get derailed.
10. Developing people – emphasis on being the best possible.
11. Reinforcement works better – because it is not perceived as manipulative.
12. People enjoy work – the atmosphere is light and sometimes even fun.

With advantages like these, it is not hard to figure out why high trust groups out perform low trust organizations dramatically. There have been many studies that indicate the leverage you get with a high trust group over a low trust one is at least three times. That is why it is common for groups to more than double productivity in less that a year if the leaders know how to build trust.

There are dozens of leadership behaviors that will develop higher trust. An example would be to do what you say (“walk your talk”). I believe the most powerful leadership behavior that will develop higher trust is to create a safe environment. My quote for this phenomenon is “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

Creating a culture of low fear is not rocket science at all. Leaders simply need to make people understand that they will not be put down for sharing their opinions as long as it is done in an appropriate way and time. I call this action “reinforcing candor,” because the person needs to feel welcome to share a contrary view without fear. Leaders who can accomplish this kind of culture will have the advantages listed above.
Work to consistently build, maintain, and repair trust in your organization. I believe the leverage in doing so is the most significant path to greatness in any organization.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


The Link Between Trust and Motivation

March 19, 2019

How many times a week do you hear leaders say, “We’ve got to motivate our people?” Those words and the actions they generate seldom lead to a sustained improvement in motivation. The above phrase is one of the most common phrases leaders or managers use every day. So what’s wrong with it?

Lack of Understanding

The phrase shows a lack of understanding about what motivation is and how it is achieved. Leaders make a mistake when they use perks to increase motivation by making people happier, like handing out free candy. They put a manipulative spin on the subject of motivation that backfires for several reasons:

1. Historical Research

The notion that improving things in the workplace will somehow make people more motivated is flawed. Over 50 years ago, Frederick Herzberg taught us that increasing the so-called “hygiene factors”  (read that more candy) is a good way to reduce dissatisfaction in the workplace, but a poor way to increase motivation.

Why? – because things like picnics, pizza parties, hat days, bonuses, new furniture, etc. often help people become happier, but they do little to impact the reason they are motivated to do their best work. That impetus comes from a different source.

2. Less is More

It is imagined that heaping nice things on top of people it will improve their attitude leading to higher motivation. The only lasting way to improve attitude is to build a better culture.

3. Bribery is not Motivation

It is difficult to motivate another person. You can scare a person into compliance, but that’s not motivation, it is fear. You can bribe a person into feeling happy, but that’s not motivation it is temporary euphoria that is quickly replaced by a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.

4. Motivation is a Personal Choice

Individuals will gladly accept any kind of freebie the boss is willing to grant, but the reason they go the extra mile is a personal choice based on the level of motivational factors, not the size of the goodie bag.

5. Focus on a Better Culture

Smart leaders focus on the culture first. They seek to build an environment of TRUST and improve the motivating factors, such as authority, reinforcement, growth, and responsibility. With these precursors, motivation within people will grow. It will be enhanced if some nice perks are added, but the perks alone do not create motivation.

Why do I make this distinction? I believe motivation comes from within each of us. As a manager or leader, I do not believe you or anyone else can motivate other people. What you can do is create a process or culture whereby employees will decide to become motivated to perform at peak levels.

6. Don’t use the Word Motivate as a Verb

How can you tell when a leader has the wrong attitude about motivation? A clear signal is when the word “motivate” is used as a verb – for example, “Let’s see if we can motivate the team by offering a bonus.” It is as if “motivate” is something a leader can “do to” the workers.

If you seek to change other people’s attitude about their relationship to work with goodies, you are going to be disappointed frequently. Using the word “motivation” as a noun usually shows a better understanding – “Let’s increase the motivation in our workforce by giving the team more responsibility to make its own decisions.”

What an Environment of TRUST Feels Like

The way to create the best environment for personal motivation to grow is to create a culture of TRUST and affection within the organization. Doing this helps people become motivated because:

• They feel a part of a winning team and do not want to let the team down. Being a winner is fun.

• They feel both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards when they are doing their best work.

• They appreciate their co-workers and seek ways to help them physically and emotionally.

• They understand the goals of the organization and are personally committed to help as much as they can in the pursuit of the goals because they know that when the organization does better, they do better personally.

• They truly enjoy the social interactions with people they work with. They feel that going to work is a little like going bowling, except the physical work is different. They are distributing computers instead of rolling a ball at wooden pins.

• They deeply respect their leaders and want them to be successful.

• They feel like they are part owners of the company and want it to succeed. By doing so, they bring success to themselves and their friends at work.

• They feel recognized for their many contributions and feel wonderful about that. If there is a picnic or a cash bonus, that is just the icing on the cake – not the cake itself.

An organization where all people are pursuing a common vision in an environment of trust has a sustainable competitive advantage due to high employee motivation. How do you achieve that kind of culture?

Tips to Achieve higher Trust

Building a culture of high trust requires that leaders stop trying to manipulate people and build a real environment. Excellent leaders create a solid framework of values, vision, mission, behaviors, and strategy.

The key to building trust is to allow people to point out seemingly incongruent behavior on the part of the leader without fear of reprisal. This requires leaders to suppress their ego needs to be right all the time and acknowledge their fallibility.

When people are reinforced for voicing their truth, even if it is uncomfortable for the boss, trust will grow. The quote I use to emphasize this is “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

With this approach you have a powerful correcting force when people believe things aren’t right. If something is out of line, they will tell you, enabling modification before much damage is done. Now you have an environment where honest feelings are shared and there are no large trust issues. People in your organization will instinctively choose to become more motivated because they are working in the right kind of atmosphere.

Achieving a state where all people are fully engaged is a large undertaking. It requires tremendous focus and leadership to achieve. It cannot be something you do on Tuesday afternoons when you have special meetings, or by holding employee picnics. Consistently build higher trust by reinforcing people when they express themselves and you will experience higher and sustained motivation.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Body Language 19 The Eyes

March 16, 2019

Of all the different types of body language, the eyes win the prize for conveying the most different meanings without speaking. This one aspect of body language alone could fill a whole book; in fact, there are many such books that deal with the language of the eyes only.

For this article, I will share some of the more powerful and well-documented eye gestures along with their meanings and some caveats to avoid misinterpreting eye gestures.

This article will highlight only the aspects of the eye itself and the eyelids (blinking). There are a huge number of additional meanings that we will add next week when we discuss the impact of eyebrows. For now, let’s concentrate on the eye itself and the eyelids.

Eye Contact

The first aspect of body language with the eyes is eye contact. When you lock eyes with another person, it is called eye contact. You are looking directly into the soul of the other person using the eye like a window.

The percentage of time you look directly at the other person determines the rapport you will develop in that conversation. That rapport becomes the basis of growing trust.

According to Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh, “If you have less than 70% eye contact with me, I will not trust you.” On the other hand, staring at another person with nearly 100% eye contact creates a creepy feeling that also destroys trust. You need to break eye contact at least once a minute when talking to another individual, but it is important to keep the gaze to the facial region.

Gazing around the room will send a signal of disinterest, and scanning down the body will label you as a pervert. My own personal rule of thumb is to have between 50-80% eye contact with another individual in conversations that involve only the two of you.

Of course, if there are many people in the conversation, the eye contact for any specific individual will be much lower, as it is important to make eye contact with each person in the group.

There is another aspect with eye contact that can be very distracting if it is allowed to continue. The best way to describe it is with a personal example.

Early in my career, I was anxious to impress managers higher in the organization. I noticed in weekly staff meetings, my manager seemed to be looking at me a lot, even if I was not talking at the time.

Eventually I started to become self-conscious about his aggressive eye contact, so I would look away quickly whenever that manager looked directly at me. I can recall becoming highly uncomfortable when sitting across the table from this manager and ended up sitting on the same side of the table from him to reduce the problem.

Pupil Dilation

Dilation of the pupils is also a major clue to what the other person is thinking. Normal dilation has the pupil (dark spot in the center of the eye) taking up roughly 30% -40% of the diameter of the iris (colored circle).

In this discussion, we need to separate out the impact of light levels and medical conditions on dilation. The iris dilates naturally in low light situations to allow more light to reach the retina, which allows people to see better in the dark.

Likewise, in bright conditions the pupil will reduce in diameter to avoid overloading the retina. In addition to this normal metering of the pupil size due to ambient light, there are other factors that impact the size of the pupil.

One common situation is in response to some types of drugs on the system. The eye doctor puts drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils so that the retina can be observed more easily.

Many of the psychedelic drugs have the same impact on dilation. This condition is medically called mydriasis, and it is why police officers are trained to notice whether a person’s eyes are dilated.

It is also possible that a person can have a disease or other eye condition that results in dilated pupils. When this condition is present, the pupils are generally habitually dilated.

For purposes of interpreting body language through pupil dilation, we are interested in situations where normal dilation is observed, but then there is a noticeable opening of the pupils in response to some stimulus, like a pointed question or a threatening gesture.

Let’s suppose you are in a moderately lighted environment and have had no drugs. What conditions might cause your eyes to become dilated involuntarily? This is where the body language aspect becomes very interesting. A person’s pupils will dilate automatically in response to fear or desire.

The study of pupil size as an indicator of emotion is known as pupillometrics. Eckhard Hess, a University of Chicago biopsychologist, did several experiments in the 1970s to determine cause and effect.

He did extensive measurements of how attitude can be determined by pupil size. “The changes in emotions and mental activity revealed by changes in pupil size are clearly associated with changes in attitude.” In general, Hess measured that positive attitudes led to larger pupil size and negative attributes resulted in smaller pupil size.

Keep in mind that the dilation of your eyes is not possible for you to detect without looking in a mirror, yet it is an obvious signal that you make in the presence of others in response to a stimulus. This is just one of the reasons why it is nearly impossible to hide some feelings from people who understand body language.

Blinking Rate

Another obvious signal that is difficult for the person doing it to detect is blinking rate. Normally, adult humans blink at a rate between 15 to 20 times a minute. There are some situations where a person’s blink rate will be high most of the time. These would include wearing contact lenses and some diseases of the eye. Curiously, babies have a much longer rate and only blink a couple times a minute.

What is of interest in body language is whether there is a marked change in the blinking rate just after some situation or conversation. When a person is under stress, the blinking rate will start to increase without the person being aware of it.

If you observe someone going from a normal 15 per minute rate to 30 to 40 blinks a minute, that person is likely under a great deal of stress, but is often trying to hide that fact.

I learned that lesson years ago when negotiating with a Japanese executive over price for some product. He tried the famous “Silent Treatment” with me in order to get a concession. Since I was aware of his ploy, I just stared back at him and watched his blink rate. I saw it double then double again until he finally caved in. I doubt that he even knew I was reading the stress level that was going on as observed in his blink rate.

Next time you are negotiating for a new car, recognize that the sales person is trained to watch your blink rate. If you are clever, you can reverse the logic and determine when the sales person is feeling the heat. Because you know this trick, you will be less likely to give away your stress level inadvertently.

This article is just the start of our discussion about body language of the eyes. When we couple the above ideas with what the larger facial muscles (cheeks and especially eyebrows) are revealing, the available information in the region of the eyes will become exponentially more complex and interesting.

My article next weekend will dig into these gestures.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763