Learning how to detect lies or sense stress through eye blinking is part of the equation when it comes to reading the eyes, but what else do the eyes tell us? They say the eyes are the window to the soul. That’s not said without reason. Ask anyone who is in a long term relationship how important reading their partner’s eyes is. Ever get a big eye roll after you propose something to your partner? Yeah, me too. Eyes tell us a lot about how the other party is perceiving our message or whether what they are about to say may be truthful or fabricated.
Mastering your body language and non-verbals is a discipline you MUST pay attention to and that you MUST work on to improve your negotiations. This post is the fifth of 7 that will focus on the key body language skills you need to excel at in negotiations.
This series will cover:
- The Handshake
- Posture and Seating
- Head Tilting
- Eye Blinking
- Eye Movement
- Hand Use
The direction that someone moves their eyes can reveal a lot about what the person may be thinking or more importantly HOW the person may be thinking. In this post we discover the different eye movements a person may have when negotiating, what they mean, and how to use that information.
Eye Movements and What They Mean
Direct Contact – Maintaining direct eye contact in a negotiation is critical. It tells the other party that you’re engaged and you’re listening to them. But even more important than that is it allows you the ability to read their body language and their eye movement.
Up And To The Left – As a rule of thumb, if you ask someone a question and they look up and to the left, then it’s safe to say that the person is searching their memory banks for the answer. When you see this, it’s a good sign.
Up And To The Right – Generally speaking, when you ask someone a question and they look up and to the right, it could mean a few things:
- You’ve asked a future based question and the person is developing a plan in their mind about how a solution would be addressed. GOOD!
- You’ve asked a past based question and the person is fabricating an answer that isn’t based on fact. BAD!
Down and Away – Ever see a person who know’s they’ve done something wrong and you can very clearly see in their body language that they’re guilty as sin? If you have kids, you’ve seen this hundreds of times. Their eyes are cast downward and averted away from you, as if shame had overtaken their entire bodies.
How to Use This Information
Having the information is great, but using it is better. CAUTION. Not everyone is the same. Remember, as with all things in body language, any ‘tell’ needs to be tested. So, for example, if you’ve asked someone a past based question and they look up and to the right before/while they give you an answer, you need to know for sure whether they are fabricating a story. The best and easiest way to do this is in the small talk prior to getting into your negotiation. Ask them really easy questions that that force them to use their memory, like “What was the make and model of your first car?” and then couple that with a question or two that forces them to be diplomatic and forces them to give a white lie, like: “How do you feel the current government is performing in office?”.
Once you’ve established what their eye movement defaults to for memory based answers and answers where you know they have to lie, then you can get a better read on their answers in a real negotiating setting.
Now what do you do if you catch someone in a lie? Well, this is a tough call because it’s so situational, but generally, I recommend calling it out. I’m not a fan of the trap laying style of negotiating to draw someone into a situation and then trap them in a lie to gain the upper hand later on in the negotiation. I just think that’s a terrible way to do business.
Now, how you call it out is equally as important as calling it out. Because saying something like, “You’re lying!” is not going to help your negotiations. It’s much better to phrase is as a question, like, “You know, Jim, I’m so glad that we can be open and honest in this kind of setting. It’s rare for me to find a supplier/procurement person that I can trust completely. Can we agree that we’ll always be honest with each other?”. With this kind of wording you’ve told them that you know they just lied, and you’re getting them to commit to not lying in the future. And if they lie about telling the truth in the future, then you need to request a different person to deal with from their management.
The eyes truly are the window to the soul. How they move, where they move to, whether they blink or don’t all tell us really important things about the person that we’re negotiating with. Learning to identify eye movement, recognize it’s communication, and using that information all takes practice and it’s critical that you TEST your body language reads before running with them.