Body Language of the Eyes: 10 Important Eye Expressions to Look For

“When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a reason why eyes are often called “windows of the soul”. While we can choose our words and control certain facial expressions, our eyes never lie. They portray our thoughts, reflect the lightest shades of emotions, express interest, boredom, surprise, approval, or disbelief. Without words ever being spoken, our eyes have the power to attract, to judge, to frighten and to caress. You have probably witnessed yourself how often a parent can hush playful children just by giving them ‘the look’. Or how a young couple can flirt with each other across the table without ever saying a single word.

The language of our eyes is one of the most powerful and effective tools of non-verbal communication. And many times our success at a job interview, during business negotiations or on a first date depends on our ability to convey the right messages with our eyes. This is why it is so important to learn how to read the body language of the eyes and interpret it correctly.

Here are the 10 Most Important Eye Expressions that we witness every day:

1. Smiling eyes.

Psychologists have long noticed that a sincere smile starts with our eyes. When we are genuinely happy the skin around the corners of our eyes crinkles (the crow’s feet), while a ‘socially polite’ inauthentic smile touches only our lips. Have you ever been in a situation when a shop assistant smiled at you, offering help and you immediately got the feeling that they were just trying to sell you something? Well, now you know why. The smile you had been given was not in the eyes.

2. Shy eyes.

People who avoid eye contact during a conversation are often perceived as insincere, deceptive and untrustworthy. Practice shows that this is not always the case.

As strange as it may seem, a clear sign that someone is being being dishonest is greater eye contact, not a lack thereof (as a liar knows we are looking for signs of deception and purposely prolongs eye contact). What does little or no eye contact mean then? Anything from shyness, to nervousness, to boredom.

3. Friendly eyes.

Looking a person straight in the eyes while carrying on a conversation sends a few clear messages to your interlocutor:
• you are comfortable in their company
• you are relaxed and confident
• you are paying attention to the conversation

This is why so many public speaking experts and motivational coaches advice maintaining eye contact with your interlocutors to make a positive first impression.

4. ‘Shut’ eyes.

Covering the eyes, shielding the eyes, lowering the eyelids for a long period of time is a hard-wired unconscious attempt to block out something that we do not want to hear. For example, a man who is asked to work on the weekend may cover his eyes with his fingers rubbing them as he answers, “No problem”. What his gestures are portraying, though, is how he really feels about the prospective of spending his weekend at the office – he is not happy about it at all.

5. Blinking eyes.

Psychologists and body language experts have noticed that when we are nervous or troubled about something our blink rate goes up. Often such behavior is seen with liars. Although, it takes more than increased blinking rate to accuse someone of lying as the same reaction is often seen with people under stress.

6. Drooping eyes.

Have you ever talked to someone and got the impression that the person was not listening to you? That is because you saw a lack of eye blinking or what we call a ‘blank stare’ on the person’s face. Another not so obvious signal of boredom is a covert glance up and to the right. If you notice this body language of the eyes in someone you are talking to, accompanied by repetitive finger or foot tapping, yawning, and glancing at their watch take it as a sign to change the topic of conversation to something more stimulating.

7. Calculating eyes.

Eyes that move from side to side or look down are often an indicator that a person is processing information. As it turns out, it is much harder for us to maintain eye contact, while making calculations, because in this case our cognitive energy is divided between perceiving our surroundings and making the calculations. This habit of looking down or to the side when considering the right way to answer can backfire at a job interview as it is often erroneously interpreted as insincerity and a desire to hide something, so be careful not to glance away too much when talking! (read more about body language of lies here)

8. Squinting eyes.

Squinting or narrowing the eye orbits indicates with great accuracy discomfort, stress, evaluation and even anger. If you get squinted eye expression right after you say something, it could probably mean that the person doubts your words, disagrees with you or does not fully get their meaning. Therefore, it helps to clarify what is bothering your interlocutor before a small misconception turns into a heated argument.

9. Interested eyes.

In 1975 a distinguished psychologists Eckhard Hess found that the pupil dilates (increase in size) when we are interested in the person we are talking to or the object we are looking at. However, when interpreting this indicator, you must also take in to consideration the illumination of the room, as in darker surroundings our pupils will naturally dilate to let in more light.

10. Glowing eyes.

They say that when someone is happy, their eyes glow, while when the person is sad or depressed the glow of “light” in the eyes tends to fad from sight. Well, this is not just our perception. There is substantial research indicating that when our mood changes, the glow in the eyes changes as well. How to make your eyes glow with happiness and joy? Unfortunately, there is no other way then to become happier and learning to appreciate the small pleasures that life gives us daily!

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16 thoughts on “Body Language of the Eyes: 10 Important Eye Expressions to Look For

  1. I’ve been doing videos for about a month now, trying to help people understand where I’m coming from. And as I watch the videos I find myself not remembering that it’s me, but waiting on the next sentence. Why? I think this post holds the answers. I am honest and sincere when I do a video. I make sure I have the right mindset before I even begin. Thinking about what I was reading above, it took me back and make me realize that my eyes are helping tell my viewers what I’m talking about.

    Neat post!


    • To Many misconceptions about the body language thing. This is much better. i like the bit about shy eyes. That is very me and I am probably the most honest person you ever met. lol

  2. I have looked at site after site trying to figure out what it means if someone always closes their eyes when they say ‘i love you’ and I am yet to find an answer!

    • i think that could mean they are not in a rush to see how you’d react when listening to their words maybe because they already know, or they could be unsure and trying to convey themselves about it, or just bored or lying :p

  3. Do not look at people’s eyes, rather at their actions. Sometimes people know how to disguise you with their eyes making you think something else.

  4. I blink a lot because I have very dry, irritated eyes and blinking relieves them somewhat.  I’ve also been told my eyes show no emotion most of the time.  But I am emotional, so I think that’s a hangover from a time when showing my true feelings would have put me at a disadvantage.  You just never know what’s going on with people.  One of the sunniest, warmest, sparkling eyed people I ever knew turned out to have been suffering from severe depression.

  5. Allisoncatronia June 4, 2012 at 5:53 am - Reply

    Hello my name is cat, 2 weeks ago I paid for my wedding and as I was talking to the registra she told me how happy and how I glowed and how it made her smile which made to be come with the enjoment that my happyness can bring and to that I noticed how she looked into my eyes. Then a week later I was shopping with my husband to be and a lady stoped us in our tracks she turned to me and said your glowing what a happy couple. You are, then she asked have you had a propasel and I said a couple a weeks ago we paid for our wedding. Then lady went of with her trollie and smilled with the biggest smile ever. So my happnes rubbed off to others

  6. Love this article! When one of my best friend is telling a lie, he would raise his chin and wide open his sincere looking eyes without blinking, smiling and talking at the same time. This sincere look fooled lots of people.

  7. while most of this is completely realistic I know tons of people who tell me a complete opposite story with their eyes. I know people who have genuine bright glowing and positive shiny eyes who are the greatest decievers I’ve ever known. I see love in even the saddest pair of eyes, I see the presence of God in most as well, and that goes for all people shy bold happy sad confused angry ect. I’ve seen druggies with the brightest glow. I’ve seen genuinely happy couples with depressed and tired eyes. I’ve seen people who have eyes that show a different personality than I wouldve expected coming from them.

  8. wondrous article I’m a fine art student i like it and i made reference of your article of an art I’m making and it indeed help me a lot.

  9. WRONG. Squinting eyes, especially when the guy or girl is in really close proximity to you means they’re paying attention, really listening to what you’re saying.

  10. I think depending on the nature of the person, they can use these facial cues to manipulate others. I looked this page up to see what “squinting” while a person is talking to you means. I think it does mean you’re listening but you are simultaneously calculating what you’re about to say/make a request. I also usually see it as a sign of disrespect if the person is smirking or half-smiling. Same goes for yawning. Its the bored person’s job to unbore themselves. Not mine.

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