Have you noticed that people’s eyes move
when they are thinking? Perhaps you just have a gut reaction someone isn’t telling the truth, they’re looking downright shifty or perhaps they’re just staring at you a little too hard. Where someones eyes move can give you valuable clues on what they’re thinking and what’s going on in their mind. It could be they’re remembering something they’ve seen or heard, connecting to their feeling, creating a picture or sound or even talking to themselves in their head.
In NLP we call these eye patterns or eye accessing cues. Most people follow a similar pattern (which I’ll cover in a sec) and that pattern gives us insights on how people are accessing information in their mind.
So why is knowing about eye patterns useful? Let me give you a couple of examples. One of your children is learning to spell, but having some issues. Many kids are taught to spell phonetically, but unfortunately that is a less effective strategy then being able to visualise the word. To find out whether your child is sounding out the word in their head or visualising the letters you can simply ask them to spell a word and watch their eye patterns. If their eyes go straight to your right then they are remembering the sounds of sounding it out. However, if they go up to the right then they’re remembering a picture of the letters.
In a similar way you might be interested in finding out your customers decision-making strategy for buying a service or product such as your own. Ask them – how will you make the decision to buy this service or product? Watch where their eyes move before they even start to speak – their eyes will flip through
the sequence before they start to describe it. For example, perhaps they need to see something (such as your proposal or perhaps a price), then remember something they heard (perhaps something in your presentation or something some said to them) and finally they need get the right feeling that the product is the right one to buy. And remember – they can only consciously describe what they consciously know. Their eye patterns may show you that unconsciously they follow a slightly different strategy or have a step added or missing compared to the conscious version.
So what are these eyes patterns? Here’s a quick summary:
If the eyes move RIGHT (as you look at them):
- UP and right – visual remembered – they’re recalling something they’ve seen.
- STRAIGHT over to the right – auditory remembered – they’re recalling something they’ve heard.
- DOWN and right – auditory digital – they’re talking to themselves.
If the eyes move LEFT:
- UP and left – visual constructed – they’re creating a picture of something.
- STRAIGHT over to the left – auditory constructed – they’re creating a sound.
- DOWN and right – kinesthetic – they’re accessing their feelings.
You can test the patterns out by asking a collection of questions and watching where the persons eyes move. Here’s some examples you could use or adapt:
- What is the colour of your front door?
- What would your car look like if it was pained pink with purple spots?
- What does your favourite music sound like?
- What would your voice sound like if you had marbles filling your mouth?
- What does it feel like to relax in a warm, bubble bath?
- Can you say your 7 times table to yourself?
A quick note at this point. There are a small percentage of people (me included) that are what we call reverse organised. We do everything backwards. So when everyone else eyes go right to recall pictures and sounds, we go left. So don’t be surprised if you come across an odd one.
There are some exponents of eye patterns that would claim it can be used to spot a liar. Ask a boyfriend who claims to have been at the pub with his mates, whether he had a nice evening, and his eyes go immediately up and right to visual constructed. You might think he’s lying and has actually been somewhere else he doesn’t want to admit. So he’s making a picture of what it would have been like if he was at the pub. Alternatively his eyes could go straight down and right to auditory digital and you might think he’s talking to himself in his head to make up some sort of lie. But to be frank that’s not the most reliable approach as he may just not remember, or perhaps he needs to repeat your question in his mind before answering as his preferred representational system is auditory digital.
Eye patterns are extremely useful in understanding someones strategies, be that for making decisions, motivation, reassurance or even spelling. And they are also useful to assess congruence – if you’ve asked someone to describe something they’ve seen but they’re on visual created then they’re most likely making up what they’re saying – either they’re actively lying or they simply don’t remember and don’t want to tall you! So you can spot if what someone is saying is consistent with where their eyes are moving, and other non-verbal communication channels such as more general body language.
So get out there and try it out. Even the tiniest of flickers could provide you with very useful information.
(Picture credit – Microsoft Clipart.)
© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
- How We Learn (englendd.wordpress.com)
- Making Sense of the World Around Us (gatehouse13.wordpress.com)