Please, show me you’re “listening”… with your eyes

We all communicate with our eyes….

Each person’s eyes show expressions
that communicate the full range of our human emotions….

And each person’s eyes are also used
to receive and perceive the full range of other people’s emotions…
this “eye” communication goes
back and forth, back and forth…

In order for this depth of communication to happen,
full “presence” is needed…
full presence and awareness
of both the giver and receiver’s eyes…

When we say “please listen to me,”
we’re often talking about far more than simply asking for our words to be “listened to”….
we’re talking about being “received,”
about interest, connection and engagement being extended to each one of  us.

And that “listening” is often done with the eyes…
with sincere and connected eye contact…

I went to a workshop in September that emphasized how frequently we don’t give our full attention to others as they are talking to us. The workshop was focused on children with social interaction challenges, and how they often don’t make sincere, interested eye contact…not simply looking at another person’s  eyes, but showing interest and care with that eye contact.

After that workshop, I made several of these pages… to try to help the kids who come to me for extra help… to  understand how important it is to show interest in each other with their eyes…

Several days later,  it occurred to me that busy adults…myself included… often don’t remember, or take the time, to pause and really connect with others…to take that time to listen, to make sincere, caring eye contact…to give and receive that contact and interest.

And how someone might say…”you’re not listening to me”…..
and get a response of “but I am listening, I heard what you said”…
but not with the eyes….
and that is often what is attempting to be requested…

And so, whether we are on the giving or receiving end of communication…
to realize that the eyes are vital to the message…
the eyes are speaking eloquently
and the receiver’s eyes, hopefully, will be “listening”

May we all learn
to “listen” more often and more deeply
with our own eyes….


Link to a wonderful post by Nancy Hatch on Spirit Lights the Way… “An Open Heart”  She has a photo in that post that might warm anyone’s heart…and wonderful, insightful observations about happiness, kindness, compassion and the remarkable power of maintaining a twinkle in one’s eye and in one’s heart…..

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34 Responses to Please, show me you’re “listening”… with your eyes

  1. nrhatch says:

    Good thoughts, Kathy. If we don’t make eye contact as we listen to others, we send the message that we are only paying partial attention ~ the rest of our attention is on the magazine we’re reading, the show we’re watching, etc.

    One caveat: If I’m driving . . . I listen with my EARS and keep my EYES on the road! 😉


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  3. Cat Forsley says:

    Beautifully written – when we listen with our whole self ……….
    I Have read there are 4 levels to listening – if i find the research again – i will link it – to yours
    we all have different ways of listening –
    i like listening with my heart —–“it is only with the heart can see clearly – what’s essential is invisible to the eye . ” From THE LITTLE PRINCE ……
    ooh – I think i know where the article is – i will link it now …”Delta Brainwaves ”
    yes i am pretty nerdy – i love research about The Mind …..

    Very Heart felt poem .
    xx C


    • I’ve read research that we have “mirror neurons” in our brains… we watch another person’s facial expression and mirror it in our mind and then bring recognition of the other person’s emotion through that mirroring/recognition process. I’m actually learning to be careful not to take in too that I’m not picking up too much and carrying it around with me…positive is terrific, negative..not so much.
      I’ll take a look at that research (I love reading research…perpetually curious here…)after my day of mirroring the kids’ expressions at school…. : ) …hopefully mostly positive!


  4. zendictive says:

    ironic, we were talking last night about the dog, it can not talk but it can let you know when it is
    hungry or if it needs outside without words. If you are happy and playful the dog becomes the same
    if you are sad or sick and lay down in a ball the dog comes and checks rather you are okay and may
    lay next to you… all with out a word…
    here is a zendictive tale on this topic (~_~)


    • Our dog….well, she’s more than just a “dog”….her name is Denali (after Mount McKinley…Denali of the Snowy Dawn???)…she has an uncanny ability to pick up what we’re feeling….she has been a true friend to us…and hopefully will continue for many more years…she always listens with her eyes… : )


  5. granbee says:

    The part that really caught me up was “being PRESENT” with others when they are talking with you. The eyes is definitely an outward means of showing you are connecting. However, I know many professionals who can SEEM to look right into your eyes and have their minds far away. We must be present with our spirit in the presence of other people’s spirits!


    • Yes, I think that’s the important part…to be truly present with our own spirits and receiving from other people’s spirits… the eyes being one important way of doing that….without that connection, it’s just “flat” eye contact…contrived and artificial…


  6. Kathy, well-said. I am not an active listener–and I’m a teacher. But since I teach second-language learners, I always tell them to listen with their eyes! Great post!


    • For many years, I taught children with hearing losses…they were amazing in their ability to send and receive communication with their eyes and facial expressions…I loved working with them…I learned so much from them, too. Some of the kids I teach now have attention challenges and are so busy and active that they miss so many social cues/information from other people’s eyes and faces…and often don’t realize what they might have done that bothered others.


      • sufilight says:

        Kathy, So very well done. As I was reading your post, I was also aware of how important eyes are to those who have hearing challenges, so had to reply to your comment. Eyes and body language helps me to “hear” and sometimes the eyes and body language says much more than the words can convey. I have also noticed, we need to quiet the mind when listening because if we are busy having an internal chatter we are not present for the other. You know how it goes, while the other is talking perhaps too long, 😉 we may thinking, “I am hungry”, “hmmm… my house is going to look nice when,,,” and before we know, we didn’t listen to a word.


        • sufilight says:

          I basically repeated your message in my comments, you are talking about presence and that implies giving one’s full attention and keeping the mind focused on the speaker. It’s good to ponder. 🙂


        • Marie, thank you for your comments…the depth of your own experience since you’ve had the hearing loss adds such an important level of insight to the ideas…thank you.

          There is a wonderful book…Emotions Revealed…that is written by Paul Ekman..about learning to read facial expression and “micro” facial expressions…those fleeting, mini-expression that communicate so much…I’m sure that you’re already doing that.

          And yes…quieting the mind and really being there with the other person is so important…and so easy to forget to do. I originally made the first of these pages for kids, but they have provided good awareness to me too… and were helpful for explaining this perspective to my husband too…

          Paul Ekman also has good software programs for learning to read facial expression… The book:


          • sufilight says:

            Thanks, Kathy will check out the link out of curiosity. And yes, I do know how to read faces and body language very well, even can “hear” accents without the sound of the voice (as when sitting a few feet away from commuters in a noisy NY train where it’s hard to hear the sound of the voice even for normal hearing folks) by the speaker’s movement of the lips when speaking a language I am familiar with . It’s an odd ability, but nature definitely compensates for the loss of a sense.


            • Oh, the links were more for general interest…I almost put them into a separate comment box…. I think you probably already know all of that… And that’s amazing about you being able to hear accents by the movement of the speaker’s lips…I guess it makes sense, since individual/combination speech sounds require varied lip/mouth positions…that’s very interesting.


  7. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Eyes are the window to the soul


  8. Kate Kresse says:

    I loved this post. It is so true. I always look right into the eyes of the person I am speaking to or listening to.I like it best when someone maintains eye contact throughout the communication. some people feel very self-conscious doing that—and i try to be as reassuring as i can be. thank you for this is chock full of good information, too<3


    • Hi Kate…oh, you’re very welcome…I’ve learned a lot through the ideas from that workshop and then tailoring/adapting them to my home, family and friend life.
      I find different people have different comfort levels with amount of eye contact…sometimes sustained eye contact is difficult for people, in which case one can do a “come and go and back again” with the eyes.


  9. Jackie Paulson says:

    Kate above sent me here, she went through two miscarriages and read my writing blog and we have become friends. Here is my writing link:
    yes, listening to others with our EYES…how so many do not do that. I have a book by Kerrie and Chris Shoot: Love at last sight, and I believe it’s the book that challenges couples or what have you…to really look at the person when they are speaking and not to interrupt them and to really listen and say important words back – not just aha haa or what have you.
    In the midwest so many do not look listen and feel the OTHER person talking to them. I even notice this with family,,, all they want to do is talk talk talk…and I just listen and listen. Its amazing that they never and I mean never ask me, what I think or If I care or what have you. It’s like they just talk to talk and it’s all about them. Then they wonder why I spend 8 hours online, because you all LISTEN more than they do. Crazy but true!\


    • I think it’s a “skill” or “habit’ that many of us may not have developed…and then didn’t get that resonance in relationships to practice it. But I do find it can be developed through awareness…based in the motivation of just plain kindness to others. I live in CA where there seems to be more comfort with connection, but I also get bewildered at times by the lack of presence of others in conversation…well, probably more monologues than “conversation”…I agree, it sure doesn’t feel good…maybe show them those photo pages and ask what they think of the ideas…start a conversation…less threatening when it comes from others. Incidentally, you might mention that the person who wrote this got these ideas at a workshop was meant for helping children with autism…the far end of the spectrum of connection challenges…


  10. Pingback: Set Goals and Be a Better Gentleman « A Gentleman's Canteen

  11. ElizOF says:

    I took a workshop last fall where we discussed and practiced same… eye contact! All the rushing around means we don’t even really look at people half the time.


  12. contoveros says:

    Ever try talking to a teenage son or daughter as they “listen” while text-messaging someone else?

    “LOOK AT ME” I have shouted on more than one occasion.

    Yes, the eyes have it. They’re the best tools we have at trying to comminicate and truly understand another person. Blogging is a pretty good tool, too.

    michael j


    • I agree with what you wrote…”the eyes have it”… and I also agree with what you added…”blogging is a pretty good tool, too.”…I’m amazed by the sincerity, encouragement and kindness among bloggers…it’s very special to be part of a community such as this…I’m filled with thankfulness…
      And teenagers….ah, yes…I think one of the points of them NOT looking IS deliberate… not wanting to make a connection…choosing autonomy and separations instead of being willing to connect…parenting teenagers was a whole other world…whew..survival skills…..


      • sufilight says:

        Reading this again after losing more hearing makes it even more meaningful to me. When I told my mate Phil yesterday that my ears start ringing when I try to hear him, he said “stop trying to hear, right now you can’t do that, just listen by looking at me and reading lips.” And I did that today, and we communicated without struggle or ringing of my ears. We were in each other’s presence. I felt at peace today, kind of a quiet surrender and humility at the power of the spirit moving through me.

        Thanks for leading me back here. Your writings serve.


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