The eye roll, not your everyday sushi.

eye-roll·ing noun 1. the action of rolling one’s eyes, typically as an expression of exasperation, disbelief, or disapproval. –Oxford Dictionary

Looking upward with an expression of contempt, often combined with a sigh. Used to indicate frustration and annoyance with the stupidity of a person or thing. – Urban Dictionary

Several years ago I had a life lesson. I was having a conversation with someone and not agreeing with their premise. Without realizing I was doing it, I rolled my eyes, showing my disdain for their point of view. We all send out signals showing how we are feeling, what we are thinking, and how we are coping. We do it unconsciously. Automatically. My life lesson was that I was called on it. This person, who I cared about very much, was incensed; and rightly so. How dare I dismiss without consideration what they were saying? This was especially horrific because I define myself as someone who listens, reflects, and responds thoughtfully. I was embarrassed. Mortified. Shamed.

Those sentiments were even in the part of my wedding vows that I composed years before this conversation. “Anastasia,” I pronounced in front of the assembled witnesses, “I promise to listen carefully and respond appropriately.” I may or may not have rolled my eyes as I said it. Not my first rodeo.

Teaching the eye roll

I recall watching my daughter when she was very young practice facial expressions in the mirror. One of her favorites in her extensive repertoire, which was intended to annoy adults, mostly her mother, was the eye roll. Being the helpful and supportive father that I am, I recall proffering suggestions. “You know dear,” I coached, “that would be a lot more effective if you moved your head back just a little bit, like this.” That’s just good parenting.

She soon perfected the full roll, the semi roll, and the head tilt modified. Soon she was an expert at the glare, the penetrating sharpie, the quick glance, the look away with an accompanying sigh, the condescending squint, the vacant glaze over, the flicker look up and back, and the full twisting closed-eyed inward reverse roll in layout position (degree of difficulty of 3.8). She’s good. She continues to model and hone her eye skills for her two pre-teen kids, who are also naturals. That’s just good parenting.

Function of the eye roll

The eye roll demolishes any argument by taking away its power. So much is conveyed in this automatic gesture. It asserts that the line of reasoning you are employing simply has no value. It announces that not only do I not agree with you, what you think is profoundly stupid. Further, I don’t care what you think. Further, whatever!

The eye roll is a powerful weapon in the armory of every teenager. My precocious preschooler started early.

The eye roll is a visual cue that is an extension of the intention of the thought.

The look of love
-Burt Bacharach, 1967

The look of love
Is in your eyes
A look your smile can’t disguise
The look of love
It’s saying so much more
Than words could every say
And what my heart has heard,
Well, it takes my breath away.

We all roll our eyes.

We do. You’ve probably rolled your eyes while reading this. No wait, you wouldn’t have!

Often we are not aware of what we are saying with our body language, “and what your eyes have said, well, it takes my breath away.”

We are all wary of the eye roll. We watch for it, fearful that our best efforts will be unceremoniously and rudely dismissed. Think of it as another variant of the Sympathetic Nervous System’s Flight or Flee response. It’s the “Whatever” response.

We are keenly aware when we spot someone else’s expressions of boredom, fatigue, or dismissal. We need to become more aware of how our expressions are being perceived. And, as part of the Sympathetic Nervous System, the movement is unconscious. You are not aware of it. It’s intuitive.

The first step in retraining and controlling our eyes (they are muscles, you know) is becoming aware of what they are doing. We may not be able to control whether our pupils constrict when we feel stress and dilate when we’re happy. We can learn to control the movement of our eyes. Become more conscious of when and why we do it. Is the body language signal worth the discomfort it creates? Surely you don’t want to share everything that is going on in your head. Eye control is a skill that, like other PetMassageTM skills, gets easier with practice.

For me, I learned that I need to be very careful especially while listening to my clients when they talk about their pets. I am eager to start with the dog and often within the first couple of minutes I think I have all the information I need. I’ve learned to stay tuned though, and consciously steady-eyed. Somewhere in the continuing saga is often a key concept or piece of imagery that will guide me to be more effective in their dog’s PetMassageTM.

Slip of the iris

Our clients are watching for any sign that we give that will help them understand their beloved pet. They look to us to sense the subtleties of their dog’s condition with our talented hands. We are the experts. Any inadvertent slip of the iris could very probably lose the client. Allowing your eyes to roll says that you are dismissing the importance of what they are saying. Their relationship with their pet is devalued. Even a half eye roll can undermine the sense of trust our clients have in us. So, in addition to the Buddha smile, show your inscrutable Buddha eyes, too. Show your Patience, Grasshopper.

Dog with attitude

And, to be sure, our dogs know all about the eye roll, as well. This afternoon when I directed Camille to enter the x-pen, I got the message in her eye roll in the head tilt modified variation (degree of difficulty of 1.8). Our young boxer’s look clearly said “What? Seriously? You’re not taking me with you? Fine. Whatever!”

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