If you ask a mother to describe the color of her child’s eyes, you’ll likely get more than just “blue” or “brown.” She may say something like “a light greyish blue that sometimes looks green” or “a deep chocolate brown with some specs of lighter brown, almost copper.” Parents spend a lot of time gazing into their children’s eyes. Their child’s eyes tell them when the child is sad, happy, discouraged, scared, anxious, content—I can go on and on. Ask a pet owner to describe his pet’s eyes, and you’re also likely to get more than a one-word answer. Why? Because when you’ve spent time gazing into the eyes of those you care about, you’ve learned so much more about them than their words could ever reveal. When you’ve done this every day over a period of time with people in your inner circle, you won’t need to ask them how they’re doing. You’ll already know. More important, you’ll also know when their words don’t match what their eyes are telling you.
“Are you okay?” “I’m fine.” “No you’re not; I can tell.”
Now think about people you work with. I’m not talking about the people at work who you’ve become friends with and with whom you meet after work socially. I’m talking about the guy in the mailroom who delivers your packages. The custodian who takes the garbage out of your office at the end of the day. The person in the marketing department that you meet with weekly on that core team project. Do you remember the color of their eyes? Have you really ever looked at them?
Tomorrow, the next day, and all the days after that, when you meet people you know at work—those people you’d smile at in the hallways, say hello to in passing in the cafeteria, or knock on their doors to let them know what conference room you’ll be meeting in—spend a few minutes noticing their eyes. See the color; recognize the uniqueness. Do this over and over again each time you talk. Sooner than you think, you’ll get to know them much differently than you have before. Your interactions will be more productive and simply more enjoyable because of it.
When we spend time looking into others’ eyes, we’re saying to them, “This moment we’re having is important to me. I’m listening to you and I hear you.” The strongest connections we make with people—both in our career and our personal lives—are forged when we’re present and engaged. This begins when we spend time seeing the person behind the eyes.
Look into the eyes of the people in your life. You’ll learn more than any words they’ll ever speak.