It's All in the Eyes. Now, Even More So!

Photo by Quentin Lagache on Unsplash

There’s no doubt that the human race is heavily dependent on facial cues to communicate and understand feelings and emotions. Despite that, I can clearly remember the most profound moments of my life and associate those with a distinct kind of eye contact with someone. That plea of understanding I wished to communicate to mom on my first day of school to the look of longing when I was stepping out for my first job – these were all cursory eye locks that became momentous in so many ways and added another level of depth to those emotions.

With the world wrestling with a virus’ unapologetic grip, all of us are forced in a situation – irrespective of what we opine – where masks are a must at public places or when stepping out even for the most trivial errands! This directly makes our eyes the primary source of contact with anyone in the outside world.

Just last week, I had stepped out to a nearby pharmacy store. There was this elderly woman who had helped me get through my order and I wanted to genuinely convey my gratitude for her work. I smiled and said a thank you, but quickly realized that she hadn't noticed my smile and the other facial expressions to see the genuineness underneath my words. I exaggeratedly crinkled my eyes and after a few seconds, she did the same – a proof that both of us received the intended message with the intended feelings.

As we get a window to reflect, reimagine and reset our ways of living and the world around us, we also need to be conscious of our mode of communication. I recently read that we can make and recognize around 250,000 facial expressions and that the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation is less than 35 percent and that over 65 percent of communication is done non-verbally. Now, this 65 percent of nonverbal communication constitutes both, our body language and facial expressions.

Eyes have often been regarded as the “windows to the soul” and our dependency on these windows has just increased manifold. Is that a fleeting smile, a smirk, a grimace or a mocking smile under that mask? Well, who knows! The facial expressions, especially those of the lower mouth are key to revealing nuances of the words we speak. With that part of our mouth covered, the burden of communicating the right intent falls heavily on the eyes.

Since all of us are just beginning to adjust our social worlds, it's about time we learn to give people the benefit of doubt! You might experience flubbed interactions, fraught with misinterpretations – but, it's okay! Give it some time and don't hit the wall already since it's still the very beginning of many changes (and, challenges) that will soon ensue.

Needless to say, our eyes need extra care and attention as our worlds squeeze into the virtual box! Both, during and off work, our eyes take the center stage – be it the never-ending Zoom calls or our steadily increasing screen time.

Like the many opportunities presented to us by this situation, we might want to become more observant and considerate to the fellow occupants of our completely-exhausted mother earth! It's not like we need to train ourselves for a completely new skill – we, as humans, are completely adept to be receptive to someone's eye contact. We just need to dust off that dormant superpower to read and understand microexpressions and put it to good use. :)