The Importance of Eyes in Listening

238HWhen Little Red Riding Hood stood staring at who she thought was her grandma, she started questioning what she saw…

“Grandma…what big eyes you have” she exclaimed!

“All the better to hear you with, my dear!” the wolf replied.

Wait, what?

Ok, so that’s not how the story goes – but your eyes are just as important in the process of listening as your ears are. Perhaps you have had this happen to you at a networking event: someone introduces himself and asks a question, and as soon as you start to answer you can see that his eyes are scoping out who to talk to next. He might be nodding, but you don’t feel any real eye contact; it’s as if he’s looking through you. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and they reveal so much—including a lack of interest. Your eyes will keep you honest – so be sure your eyed and ears are equally tuned to the person who is speaking in front of you.

Improvising Requires Focused Eyes

In improv, you learn about listening with the eyes – it’s an important part of understanding everything happening in your surroundings. Unless you understand your scene, how can you adapt and respond appropriately? You can’t – you need to listen with your ears, to understand, and also listen to your physical environment. By listening with your eyes, you can gain the greater context. What is the body language that other people use? Are they engaged, or are their eyes glazing over? Stephen Covey said, “listen with your eyes for feelings.” Feelings are critical – ultimately they motivate people to make decisions, which from a business perspective is very important. In every interaction you have – from discussions with coworkers to interactions with clients, “listening” to feelings is going to be crucial in helping you respond in a beneficial way.

Connecting with Anyone or Anything

Inc. referenced a study from the journal, Environment and Behavior, conducted by researchers at Cornell University. In this study they changed the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes to look right at consumers, as opposed to looking away at the bowl of cereal. They found that people were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit because it was looking right at them. Eye contact with a cereal box was that influential. “‘Eye contact with cereal spokes-characters increased feelings of trust and connection to the brand, as well as ultimate choice of the brand over competitors,’ Cornell researchers reported.”

While listening with our ears is incredibly important – using our eyes in the listening process is just as critical in order to adequately understand the person in front of us. Learn more about leveraging improv to improve your career by visiting and download a free chapter of my book, Improv is No Joke, while you’re there.