How To Listen With Your Eyes

How To Listen With Your Eyes


Perhaps the deepest kind of listening you can give another person, is to listen with your eyes.

To be fully heard is perhaps one of the greatest gifts that you can give another human being.

Free from any trace of manipulation, technique or tactic, being an effective communicator involves primarily listening, and perhaps the deepest kind of listening you can give another person, is to listen with your eyes.

I like to be heard

I like to speak too.

Some people say that I prefer the latter over the former, but deep down somewhere in my soul, I know when I have been heard. You do too. When someone listens to us with full attention, not just hanging off every word, but listening deeply to understand not only what we are saying, but also to understand the spaces between the words, we feel valued.

Everyone wants to feel valued.

Often in conversations I am guilty of thinking too much about what I will say next, rather than truly listening.

Listen To Me … Please!

When somebody says, “I’m going to Spain on holiday next year,” what they are really saying is, “I’m excited about my adventure ahead, let’s talk about it.” Often, the next phrase is something like, “really, I went to Spain once, we visited here, there and had a great time,” and so on. An opportunity for deep engagement, value and learning missed. Instead of creating a place where truly listening would value that persons moment of excitement, we dive feet first into our experiences and opinions, our adventures, our moments, riding roughshod over the deep need and desires to express of another. Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” He understood the need we have to listen with our eyes.

For many years I have understood this and now intentionally choose to listen with my eyes. What does that mean? If there is one action another human being can make which truly annoys and infuriates me is when talking to someone and they are constantly looking over my shoulder to see if there is another person that they should be speaking with at that precise moment. It is rude. It is extremely rude. But above all, it devalues people.

How do you listen with your eyes?

  • Fully concentrate on the face of the person speaking.
  • Give full and focused eye contact.(Not to stare, because that’s just creepy!)
  • Don’t finish another persons sentence.
  • Don’t talk over what they are saying.
  • Ask open ended questions. (Who, What, Where, When, How)
  • Use “social grunts” – “oh, really?” “Never!” “What then?”

When making a presentation or public speaking it is a well-known rule to give eye contact to your audience. It builds trust and connection, vital when you want to influence, educate or inspire people to action. I remember one guest preacher that I would listen to who always had wonderful wisdom and insights, but had the annoying habit of staring at the ceiling towards the back of the room when he was speaking. It always left me feeling that I was surplus to requirement, and he would have been quite content speaking to an empty room. It is good public speaking practice to have strong eye contact with your audience. But it is of much greater value when communicating one-on-one to fully engage with the person in front of you and listen with your eyes. It gives value and dignity to that person.

Hemingway was right when he said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” The most basic of all human needs is to be noticed, valued, and understood, the best gift we can give another person is to listen with our eyes.

Today, when you are in a conversation choose consciously to fully engage with the other person. Even for a few minutes. Give full eye contact, not as some manipulative or “push yourself forward” technique but because the person who is in front of you wants, needs and truly deserves to be fully valued.

Listen with your eyes.

I would love to start a conversation with you. You can email me here or tweet me here.

By Peter Billingham


Photo Credit: Toni Blay via Compfight cc


Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Leadership, Public Speaking

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

4 Responses to How To Listen With Your Eyes

  1. Lena

    That is why it is so hard to communicate via social networks, when you are neither seeing nor hearing your partner. You can’t use the eye contact, or see his face emotions. You are waiting till he is typing his reply, and during these seconds or minutes – you can have the entire inner monologue with him. I still can’t teach myself to the “friends” in social network. Prefer the face to face communication.

    • Peter Billingham

      So true Lena! While social media has it’s place, and can be a great tool, it isn’t really very “social.” What i think is always strange and a bit sad really, is to see a couple out for a meal and each person is staring into their mobile commenting on social media, taking pictures of the food for instagram or texting someone else. Face to face, eye to eye contact and communication connects at a much deeper level, but seems in short supply often. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate the feedback.

  2. Erik Blum

    It makes me sad when I see youngsters having a drink and and instead of talking they both stare at their smartphones…

    • Peter Billingham

      So true Erik. Make me as sad when I see couples doing the same. I recently was having a meal with my wife and watched a couple at the next table and I don’t think they said a word to each other but sent 1000′s by their fingers to others, crazy! Thanks for the comment.

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