Don’t Recognize ‘Til They Can See the Whites of Your Eyes

Paul Hebert Employee Communications, Employee Relations, Engagement and Satisfaction, Paul Hebert, Total Rewards

I was hitting a local fast-food empire the other day when I noticed that the drivers in each of the cars in front of me had on sunglasses.  Nothing unusual, as most drivers will wear sunglasses on a sunny day.

I also noticed, as they pulled up to the window to pay and get their order, they left their sunglasses on. I never do.  I always remove my sunglasses when I meet someone who doesn’t have sunglasses on.  Why?

They can’t see my eyes.

A ton of communication is non-verbal and a huge amount of information is transmitted by the way in which our faces contort and shift during a conversation. We use those tell-tale “microexpressions” to complete the messages we get from others.  It is important that we see someone’s face and eyes when communicating.

Did you know it is difficult to know if someone is genuinely happy when they smile if you can’t see their eyes?  It is.

Called a “duchenne smile” – it involves not only the mouth but the corners of our eyes as well.  Check the picture below.  Can you spot the “genuine” smile?


Ducheene smile

(it’s “b”) 


For a bit of fun – check out this BBC site and take a quick quiz to see how good you are at spotting “fake” smiles.  (FYI – I got 19 out of 20 right… but I’m a professional.)


Recognize When You Can See Their Eyes – and When They Can See Yours

I bring this up because too often we rely on methods of communication that, while efficient and effective, do not communicate the emotion behind the words.  If all you ever do is shoot out emails with “thanks”, “great job”, “atta-boy/girl” – you’re missing a ton of opportunity to communicate genuine emotion in the recognition.

Get out from “behind the keyboard” – take off your sunglasses and let those you want to recognize see your eyes.  Show them you “genuinely” are thankful and appreciative of the work they do.

Don’t recognize until they see the whites of YOUR eyes… or at least follow up with them in person, so they can see those wonderful little crow’s feet at the corners of your eyes.