Keynote speaker, Charlie Caruso, flutters her eyelids, yet nobody bats an eyelid.

As part of her quest for self improvement, something we should all be working on, Keynote Speaker Charlie Caruso recently requested a Body Language Audit- an analysis and constructive feedback of her body language and vocal power, based on footage from a recent presentation. Charlie's speaking topics include Intrapreneurship, Gen Y / Millennials, Disruption, Brand Me and social MEDia. She's also the author of Understanding Y, Founder and CEO of PuggleFM and Co-Founder of Curiosity Productions. 

While analysing the footage, I noticed a very interesting nonverbal signal from Charlie. As she was being introduced to the audience, and in response to the host's remarks, Charlie did an eyelid flutter. While this may sound trivial, observing an eyelid flutter can be very telling, as to how somebody is feeling about a topic. For people in business, especially those of you that lead, pitch or negotiate, the ability to read such nonverbal cues, can elevate your success to the next level. Cues like this are involuntary and indicate some kind of concern in response to a stimulus. In this case, the host's words. The nonverbal response, immediately follows the stimulus. Reading these cues gives the observer the ability to detect an issue and, more importantly, respond appropriately by working to resolve the issue.

Imagine knowing:

Which clause in a contract is the one that's causing apprehension.
Which offer is acceptable, despite the opposition's counter offers.
When your interviewee is hiding something.
When your staff members feel uncomfortable with a decision. 

These are just a few examples, because this ability gives you the opportunity to improve communication in all kinds of relationships across all areas of your life. People's words don't always speak their true feelings, so knowing where their issue lies, gives you the opportunity to make things better. 

Eyelid Flutter

When people are troubled, frustrated, or having silent temper tantrums, their eyelids close or flutter rapidly (Navarro & Schafer, 2001; Knapp & Hall, 1997)
— Advanced Interviewing Techniques: Proven Strategies for Law Enforcement, Military and Security Personnel. John R. Schafer & Joe Navarro

The eyelid flutter is involuntary and signals discomfort or dislike. It can be triggered by stress, and is usually seen when someone says something we strongly disagree with, in people struggling with thoughts or in finding the right words. 

Charlie's eyelid flutter was in response to the statement "Charlie encourages a more relaxed Q&A approach to her keynote...", indicating some kind of discord for Charlie. It was accompanied by a shuffle in her seat. Her head then tilted downwards and she reached to turn on her mic. Until that point, she was sitting very still- it was very clear to me that there was something around the Q&A issue that bothered Charlie. 

When I met Charlie, before providing her feedback, I explained my observation and asked if there was an issue with Q&A. This wasn't part of her feedback as such, because you can't change involuntary responses even if you tried and if you did try, you'd probably trigger more nonverbal responses and start to look awkward. And, there is no reason why Charlie should try to change this, because it's a true expression of her emotion, she was being authentic and expressive which often adds to a persons likability. I merely wanted to know the answer to satisfy my own curiosity. 

There was indeed an issue with the Q&A. Charlie explained to me that the keynote speech was the last of a series around Australia. At each of the previous events, Charlie's audience had failed to participate in asking questions throughout the presentation, despite Charlie encouraging it. Instead, audience members left questions until the end. Confident with her knowledge and happy to improvise, Charlie likes to use questions to guide her speech, so that it becomes more relevant and contextualised to her audience. As this hadn't happened, this reinforced for Charlie, a point that Sheryl Sandberg raised in her book Lean In: Women are less likely than men, to raise their hand and interrupt, due to the conditioning of societal cues from a very early age. Had Charlie's audience been male, perhaps the outcome would have been different.  

Though Charlie is knowledgeable on nonverbal communication and how important it is in our interactions, she wasn't aware of her eyelid flutter and didn't know what it meant. She was taken aback, that such a small nonverbal cue can accurately indicate an issue lying below the surface. Immediately, her face lit up as she saw the potential of reading these cues in others- especially in business interactions. This is what I love about Charlie, her creative mind constantly seeks knowledge, making connections between what she sees or hears and linking that to how it could be advantageous to herself or others in terms of business and leadership. It seems apt, that her latest venture is named Curiosity Productions. 

To see Charlie's eyelid flutter in action, click the image below to see a quick video lesson. 

                                                       Click image to see eyelid flutter video lesson. Lesson opens in new window.

                                                       Click image to see eyelid flutter video lesson. Lesson opens in new window.

If you're interested in learning more about reading nonverbal cues, contact me to see how I can help you in your line of work. Once I know more about what you do, I can put together a contextualised curriculum, to train or coach you or your organisation.

If you're interested in reading more about specific cues, click on the links below or subscribe to this blog to receive future articles. 

Duper's Delight (expressed when we're delighted we duped someone)
Increased Blink Rate (stress indicator)
Microexpressions (involuntary leaked expressions of emotion)
Foot Direction (our feet leak our intentions)
Gravity Defying Behaviours
Tongue Jut (expressed when we get away with something, or slip up)
One Sided Shoulder Shug (expressed when we lack confidence in our own words)
Eye Blocking Behaviour (expressed when we don't like an object, topic or person)


Sophie ZadehComment