Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The eyes... THE EYES!!!

Twelve years ago or so I met a British businessman at our offices, who had come up by train to Warsaw. He'd flown to Kraków - his first ever visit to Poland - had a few meetings, then travelled to Katowice, then to Warsaw.

I sat him down and made him a coffee, and he began recounting his business trip. "Do you know what I found strangest about Poland?" he asked. "The way people in the street stare at you, but when you get close to buy a ticket, they avoid eye contact."

Wow. Big cultural difference! (This was 2003 or '04, you understand.) I said that I hadn't noticed, but by then I'd already been living in Poland for six or seven years, and being Polish myself , I might well have been guilty of these traits without even being aware of them. An autism-spectrum thing?

Of late I have been thinking about human eyes. (In fact the eyes of all animals - cats, dogs, horses...)

The eyes are the windows to the soul. Some are said to have 'kind eyes', 'cruel eyes', 'hypnotic eyes'; some are said to be 'wide-eyed', 'misty-eyed'... We can tell a lot about our interlocutors by their eyes. Instinctively. It's not something taught or discussed, but subconsciously we tend to judge people by what their eyes are saying.

Yesterday I was talking to the Polish general manager of a very big British investor here in Poland. I was struck by the way he maintained steady eye contact - his eyes conveyed an unshakable air of trust and responsibility. Impressions. Maintaining eye contact - not a rude stare, but then not coming across as shifty-eyed, eyes darting hither and yon - is important in building relations with others.

Yet some of us find it uncomfortable to do this, finding it rude or intimidating.

This is a biology thing. The same way that humans can impose their alpha-ness on dogs with eye contact, thus establishing themselves as leaders of the pack, so it works between humans themselves.

Great actors are good at this. Using eyes to convey mood, atmosphere.

Eye-contact is important. But there's something else about the human eyes that I find really difficult to pin down. Some people have 'those eyes', and others - just don't. Human eyes are remarkably similar size-wise, with (according to Wikipedia) a 2mm variation on an average 24mm diameter, which is around 8%. Given that human height can vary by 50% and weight by 100%, this is not much. Is it that some heads are big, some round, some long - the eyes are framed differently? By the face? By the eyelids? I don't think it's just that. Some eyes are startling, some are wild, some are warm, some are shifty, some are trusting... but how do we assess this?

And why is it instinctive? Is there a spiritual dimension - the window to the soul indeed. We look at faces and make judgments - and the eyes are the point from which we start judging.

Please - accept the mystery?

Or is there something science and scientists have yet to unravel in the complex area of human biology?

This time last year:
New old terminal open at Okęcie airport

This time three years ago:
Arrogance vs. humility

This time four years ago:
Warsaw looking good ahead of the football-fan influx

This time seven years ago:
Heron over Jeziorki

This time nine years ago:
Present rising, future loading

1 comment:

Paddy said...

Not sure about the deeper questions but boy do those eyes freak me out!