Troubled by accusations of double standards, Lisa Wilkinson's blink rate increases to a whopping 105 blinks per minute!

When faced with something we don't like, we cover our eyes. This is called eye blocking, and it can be a response to a person, a topic or even an object- picture someone receiving bad news, or seeing an unsightly object. We often eye block with our hands, covering or shielding our eyes, as if to block out what we've seen or heard that is disagreeable to us. 

Receiving Bad News

Here's the interesting part: Children who are born blind cover their eyes when they hear something they don't like, even though they have never seen or been taught this behaviour. Like many other nonverbal cues, this is deeply ingrained within us- it's an innate response. 

We also eye block with our eyelids. Sometimes we close our eyes for a second or two- longer than a blink. I recall being introduced to someone I was about to work with, his eyes closing from the mention of my name to halfway through the handshake. It felt like an eternity, yet is was just a couple of seconds. In that moment this nonverbal cue told me that I had my work cut out and needed to turn around his opinion of me- a valuable indicator that most people would have missed. When you're privy to that kind of information, you open your eyes (no pun intended) to the true feelings of others- feelings that would rarely be shared verbally. 

Another form of eye blocking is blinking. In stressful situations- when faced with something we don't like, our blink rate increases. This is another nonverbal cue that often goes unnoticed. And although not in itself an indicator of deception, an increased blink rate is often seen in people when they lie. 

In the video below, Lisa Wilkinson, from Australia's Today show exhibits an increased blink rate as she responds to co-host, Karl Stefanovic's accusation of her having double standards. As you can see, she blinks fairly rapidly during her response, indicating stress. Her blink rate has increased to a whopping 105 blinks per minute, from her average blink rate of 36 blinks per minutes, when presenting under less challenging circumstances. 

During an interaction, when we get the feeling that something is wrong, it's subtle nonverbal nuances like this, that add to our gut feeling that something is a little off. Once you know which nonverbal cues to look for, you're able to provide reasoning to those gut feelings, gaining clarity to better interpret or predict behaviour.

Start by paying attention to the normal blink rate of people that are close to you, and notice how it increases when something isn't quite right. This will give you the power to respond more appropriately when they're feeling discomfort.

Incidentally, I did manage to change my eye blocker's opinion of me. Knowing how he felt, allowed me to use all the nonverbal tools I had, to put him at ease and to give it my all, from the outset. After all, you aren't going to listen to someone that you don't feel comfortable with and in that situation, as a trainer, it was my responsibility to foster a positive relationship, conducive to learning. By the end of the session we had strong a mutual respect for each other and had shared a lot of laughs along the way.