Is Your Blinking Sending The Wrong Message?

What does it say about you if you blink too much?

Is excessive blinking a sure sign that you’re nervous, uncomfortable, even a liar? And do you even know whether you’re guilty of too many blinks?

A post on the Smart Politics website this week analyzed the blinking rates of the Republican candidates, finding that Rick Santorum blinked almost twice as much as anyone else in a recent debate – a whopping 61.4 times per minute. In contrast, Rick Perry blinked the least, just 15.9 times per minute. The analysis concluded that:

“Potential voters are no doubt more at ease with a candidate who looks them straight in the eyes and does not pepper their speech with repetitive non-verbal tics.”


The author’s conclusion is undermined by the fact that Mr. Santorum beat Mr. Perry in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Despite that, his conclusion may still be correct.

But – and there’s a big but here – no matter how people perceive the meaning of excessive blinking, the opposite may actually be true. Liars, aware of the risks of avoiding eye contact, usually maintain eye contact longer than non-liars while they’re lying.

According to the Journal of Non-Verbal Behavior and reported by The Telegraph:

“Liars blink less frequently than normal during the lie, and then speed up to around eight times faster than usual afterwards.”


And according to Body Language for Dummies:

”Under normal conditions, the blinking rate is between six and eight blinks per minute. This can increase by four or five times when you’re feeling pressure….Sometimes a high blinking rate doesn’t mean anything other than that a person is under pressure, [but] when people lie, their energy increases, and when concocting an answer to a difficult question their thinking process speeds up.”


So what can you do if you’re an over-blinker? First, you may have an underlying medical condition that can cause excessive blinking, anything from dry eyes to Tourette’s syndrome. But assuming you don’t have a physical condition leading to excessive blinking (in which case medical treatments might help), what should you do if you blink too much?

I haven’t found any silver bullets to this challenge other than practicing your delivery while focusing on maintaining steadier eye contact. I’ve found that awareness itself can help modify the behavior, but it usually requires time and practice for it to become more natural.

Finally, reducing your fear of public speaking may reduce your stress level – which, in turn, may reduce your blinking. Some of these relaxation techniques may help.

I’d like to ask readers to weigh in – how can a speaker reduce excessive blinking? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

h/t Political Wire