Body language of the eyes (Learn all you need to know)

  • By: Phil Taylor
  • Time to read: 13 min.

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication that includes gestures, posture, and facial expressions. It can be used to interpret the messages that people are trying to convey.

The eyes are one of the most useful body parts in body language. Eye contact varies from person to person and is expressed in different ways. For example, some people dislike eye contact while others find it too intrusive or uncomfortable. The way we look at others speaks volumes about our thoughts and feelings about them.

Reading body language of the eyes

Reading body language of the eyes

How can people see what you are thinking? They can read your body language. Facial expressions, gestures, voice tone, and eye contact are all clues to help people understand what another person is feeling or thinking.

The eyes are one of the most important body parts involved in nonverbal communication. Experts say that people often use their eyes to communicate with others before they speak. As a result, reading eye contact is an important part of understanding how someone feels about you or about your words.

Reading eye contact is essential in human communication. If someone isn’t looking at you when they’re speaking, they may not be interested in what you’re saying. This is also true when reading body language, which can help you understand how others are feeling about your words.

The first thing we need to understand when reading the eyes is eye contact.

Eye contact

Eye contact

What is eye contact? Eye contact is when people look at each other at the same time in the eyes.

Most people ask what certain eye contact means when they feel something is off or someone looks at them strangely. It’s a build into us to notice how someone looks at us or makes eye contact. 

The average time someone should look at you is two seconds and then look away. If you notice someone looking at you for a prolonged period of time there is something up.

A note to remember is culture plays a big part in eye contact.

Avoiding eye contact

Avoiding eye contact

When someone avoids eye contact they are usually sending a signal they don’t like you or don’t want to speak with you at that moment. We also avoid eye contact when we feel that person is embarrassed to use it.

If a person avoids eye contact on a number of occasions in different social settings we can conclude they find us unlikeable, obnoxious, or don’t like who we are with. Pay attention when you see this behavior in a person.

The high-status eye gaze

The high-status eye gaze

The higher a person in society is the more they will use eye contact when talking and listening. You see this when a boss walks into a room or a celebrity talks with a group. People who use less eye contact whilst talking are seen as less dominant or less powerful.

When someone looks at use from a higher status it makes use feel important or better, just something to keep in the back of your mind next time you speak with a boss or high-status person.

We can use this to our advantage when we speak or talk to someone keep good eye contact with them.

Starting a conversation using eye contact

Starting a conversation using eye contact

You can start a conversation with your eyes, simply scan the room or look at the person and they will naturally look at you until you speak. It’s really easy to look at their face/eyes draw their attention and ask a simple question.

The eye gaze

The eye gaze

What does eye gazing mean in body language?

The eye has a number of different meanings. We can see an eye gaze when a couple becomes romantically engaged with each other. It can be a sign of attraction or aggression. You can see this change in couples, as a relationship begins to change from friendly to romantic.

Eye contact gaze is a means for romantic attraction. Most people will make their eyes go soft and the face relaxes when they put on a show of eye contact with the person they want to be noticed by.

We also need to take into account the difference between eye contact and staring. Eye contact is usually seen as a sign of respect and interest in the other person, whereas staring is usually seen as aggressive, impersonal, and strange. This sends a clear signal to the other person that something is up and they’re behaving oddly.

The key difference here is that when we stare, we are more aware of what is going on and are getting ready for something to happen.

When we gaze, we find something or someone interesting and want to know more.

Next up is understanding pupils and what they mean in the body language context. Personally, I find this area fascinating, one of the most difficult to read but one worthy of study as it’s one of a few non-verbal cues we can’t control.

Reading the Pupils (understanding)

Reading the Pupils (understanding)

Understanding pupil dilation and constriction.

First, we will deal with pupil dilation. When we see someone or something we like, the pupils will dilate.

“The definition of dilation is the action of enlarging something or making it wider”.

We can use this to our advantage when dating and most restaurants will do so by dimming the lights, allowing the pupils to absorb as much light as possible. This in turn will make the pupils enlarge, sending the body language cue to the other person on a subconscious level.

On the other hand, pupil constriction means the opposite of pupil dilation. When we see something we don’t like or someone our pupils will constrict or go smaller.

Constricting pupils means making them narrower.

An example of this is when a child doesn’t like his or her dinner. Take a look into their eyes and see how the pupils constrict. Then, as deserts are being served, take a look at how the pupils dilate or grow larger as a nice piece of chocolate pudding is being served.

Next, we will take a look at what closed eyes really mean and there are a number of different meanings that could confuse some.

Closed eyes the true meaning

Closed eyes the true meaning

When we see someone close their eyes while conversing, this is a common body language cue that means that the person doesn’t like what they’re saying or doesn’t like or is concerned or worried about what you’re saying.

An example of this is in a saleroom setting if you were selling a car to a client and you are about to close the deal and personal finance comes up, and they close their eyes for a prolonged period of time, usually a few seconds, then there is something up with them internally.

At the point you notice the eye block, think back to the last topic that was in discussion and address the issue.

It’s worth pointing out that context is key to understanding what’s really going on. If someone blocks their eyes when they’re with a romantic partner, it may mean they’re blocking everything out but you.

Reading what else is going on around us gives us a better understanding of what’s not absolute in nonverbal communication.

Next, we will take a look at why people cover their eyes.

Covering the eyes

Covering the eyes

When people have done something wrong, they often cover their faces to avoid being told off. You’ve probably seen this happen with both children and adults. This is an expression of negative emotions, worry, or lack of confidence, and can also be seen as an embarrassment.

Calm Eyes

Calm Eyes

Calm or relaxed eyes are a sign of comfort and confidence.

Narrow Eyes

Narrow Eyes

What does narrowing of the eye mean in body language?

The narrowing of the eyes shows that person is under stress you will also notice constriction of the pupils. If you see someone narrow their eyes in a conversation you know something is wrong. Some people will narrow their eyes when they feel apprehension, doubt, or concern. Remember context is key to understanding what is really going on within someone.

The Quivering Eye

The orbicularis oculi muscle is a muscle located in the eyelids according to NCBI website the muscle is located around the upper and lower eyelids.

The main function of the orbicularis oculi muscle is to close the eyelids. When we see someone with a quivering eye it usually means from a body language point of view, stress, anxiety, or fear. This is a great data point to remember.

Talking with eyes closed what does it mean?

Talking with eyes closed what does it mean

In some cultures, talking with eyes closed is a sign of reverence. In others it is a symbol of dishonesty or that the person does not believe what he is saying.

Talking with eyes closed may also be a way for people to avoid distractions, such as their phone’s notifications and conversations going on around them.

It’s uncommon when you see this so pay attention to see what else is going on around them when they talk with their eyes closed.

What does heavy eye contact mean

Making eye contact with somebody is an important social signal. It’s one way to convey interest in what somebody is saying, and it also indicates that you are confident in yourself.

But is there more to it than that? Heavy eye contact or a prolonged stare can mean a person is deep in thought or thinking about what has just been said.

If they do this often or you notice this then you know they are processing the information, they are thinkers.

Body language eye movement mean

Body language eye movement mean

Eey movement or eye accessing cues provides a window into the person’s thoughts and feelings. Eye movement is a very powerful indicator of what a person is thinking about or feeling.

There are many different theories about what eye movement indicates, but most body language professionals agree that it is individual to them.

However, there are some exceptions like eyes down right.

Eyes down and right mean

Eyes down and right mean

Eyes downright is now seen as emotional processing. It is observed that people keep their eyes down right when they are feeling sad, nervous, or exhibiting anxiety.

This can be observed in various situations, such as when you are in front of the doctor or during difficult conversations.

We now look at angry eyes.

Angry eyes

Angry eyes

When we see anger in someone’s eyes, they are usually narrowed and a frown is usually displayed on their forehead. You usually see this before a person is about to lose control or get physical with someone.

They are nearly at the point of no return. When you see this it is important to walk away or change the topic altogether.

Some people will stare at you aggressively before they get angry. You can tell when someone is staring at you aggressively because they will lock their eyes onto you like they’re aiming down the barrel of a sniper rifle. This usually means a fight is about to happen.

Darting Eyes

When we see someone’s eyes move or dart back and forth, this is usually seen as processing negative information.

When the amygdala detects danger, the brain will initiate a fear response to protect us. This can be seen in eye movements or how someone’s face may look tenser.

Shocked eyes

Shocked eyes

When we are shocked we tend to have a very wide and stiff gaze. The eyes and mouth may open and the eyebrows may raise. This action is a natural reflex to what has shocked us, as it helps prepare for fight or flight.

Crying eyes

Crying eyes

People who cry are usually under intense emotional stress. This is usually a default form of childhood to get what they want or are genuinely upset and have no other way of releasing emotions.

However, when analyzing someone we can’t just use someone crying to mean they are really upset we have to read in clusters of information.

Someone who is crying may be sad or upset but they may also be tired, hungry, or have a cold.

Some people will be equally upset but can’t express themselves outwardly and will internalize their sadness but never show it.

The way to tell if someone is really feeling upset when crying is if they clutch an object like a shirt, ring, necklace, or a part of their body.

Remember there are no absolutes, but we can safely say something more is going on internally with them.

Futtering of the eyes

When one sees someone’s futting eyes, it usually means they are processing something internally and are unable to articulate what they are thinking. You will see someone futtering of the eyes when something contentious has been said or done and they are struggling to articulate the words.

Futtering eyes is a body language cue that indicates the speaker or subject is struggling with what they are saying.

This can be as a result of difficulty forming sentences, difficulty recalling the words, or difficulty understanding the other person.

The person may start to frown as their brow furrows and they attempt to form a coherent sentence. Alternatively, the person may have squinted eyes due to frustration or disapproval.

What does it mean when someone squints their eyes at you

When we squint we are trying to see something better. It is a basic instinct and usually happens when we don’t have the right glasses or contacts on.

But sometimes people squint for other reasons. Squinting can also be a sign of confusion, sadness, or anger.

Context is important when you see someone squiting. You need to take into account what they’re saying before you can make a conclusion about what eye squinting really means.

What does it mean when a guy looks at you with wide eyes

From a person’s point of view, this could be a sign of love and romance. However, from the other person’s point of view, it may be anything from confusion to surprise to panic.

Again, context is important to interpret what is really going on with the guy.

What is context in body language terms

Context is everything you see in the environment when you are looking at somebody. For example, when somebody is talking to a boss, the context of the conversation is very different from when they are speaking with a family member.

So when we analyze anyone, we need to think about who is in the room, what the conversation is about, what they’re doing there, and how they look in general.

Understand the environment first.

The environment a person lives in can give us clues to their thoughts & feelings. For example, if they’ve been under stress from the environment around them, they will have certain ways of showing emotion or concern.

Who are they talking to?

Before you talk to someone, it’s important to know who they are and if they would feel comfortable around you or not. Different people will have a different level of comfort with a stranger vs. an old friend, for example.

They might feel more comfortable talking with friends than strangers because they know them better.

If they are a police officer, they will act differently from how they would behave when talking to their work colleague who they know well.

You should start to see how context helps us understand what the person is going through in order to get a good read of their body language.

The next thing we need to do is baseline the person we are reading. Some argue that this should come first, however, it is irrelevant. We just need to do it.

What is a baseline?

In simple terms, a baseline is how a person behaves when they’re not under any stress.

There really is no big secret to getting a baseline.

We just need to observe them in their regular day-to-day environment and, if we can’t do that, we need to ask simple questions that will help them relax and feel more confident.

Once they’re feeling more prepared then we can proceed to look out for any shifts to their body language.

The best way to get a good read on anyone is to read nonverbal head movements in clusters.

Why read in clusters?

Reading in clusters is the best way to analyze and will give users a better understanding of what that person is really saying without them saying it.

We can’t just say head nodding is a contradiction to the conversation without seeing shifts in clusters.

An example is: When we are talking to someone and we ask a simple question they then say, yes and shake their head at the same time.

Most people with little knowledge on the topic of body language would say this is a deceptive sign. When in fact, this does not mean they are disagreeing with us, but it gives us a data point.

However, if we see the head shake and the verbal answer of “yes,” then a shift in a chair and a sharp sniff, then this would be classified as a cluster change.

We would know from this data point that something is up and we need to dig deeper or simply avoid the conversation altogether.

That is why reading in clusters is so important. There is a simple rule that all body language experts use, and that is there are no absolutes.

Summary

Summary

The eyes are the windows to the souls and in body language that is true. Body language of the eyes can tell us so much about what is really going on with a person. We can tell if they are interested in what we have to say, if they are falling in love with us, feel sleepy or ill, and everything in between.

We can tell if someone is interested in what we’re saying by looking into their eyes. The body language of the eyes reveals a lot about the person and their mood.

There are three types of eye contact: sustained, direct, and averted. Sustained eye contact is an indication that the other person is confident and interested.

Direct eye contact is used to identify someone as a threat or rival, while averted eyes mean they don’t want anything to do with that situation.

Reading the eyes is one of the easiest body-language cues to analyze as they are usually on display unless covered with sunglasses. We hope you have enjoyed learning about the body language of the eyes if you have checked out our other post body language looking down at the floor here.