Whether giving one, getting one, or being witness to one, the stink eye is truly galvanizing.
Being given the stink eye will no doubt catch you off-guard. And in the right situation, it can stop you dead in your tracks. At its greatest level of effectiveness, the stink eye is used to display an array of emotions simultaneously, from disgust to distrust; from disdain to contempt. When used in public, the stink eye receives a surprising reaction from the recipient, and rarely is its use unwarranted.
For example, I walk to and from the UC Berkeley campus each day from my apartment. I have about a mile walk each way, and much of this is done during the rush hour traffic through downtown Berkeley (what little there is of both). Nevertheless, I walk through numerous intersections where cars are impatiently waiting for the crosswalks to clear so that they can proceed through.
When this happens, there is a small reaction needed to ensure (or avenge) that I, as a walker in my right of way merely trying to regain the safety of the sidewalk on the other side of the street, am noticed and not crippled. As the car's bumpers slowly approach the crosswalks, getting ever so close to my knees and seconds from paralyzing me, a stink eye is shot directly through the car's windshield and into the driver's eyes. It usually gets them to stop just short of cutting my legs off, and they are taken aback as if surprised at their own doing.
The key to a powerful stink eye is the direct eye contact. Making eye contact when giving the stink eye is the difference between a disapproving look that warrants a reaction from the disapproved (a stink eye at its finest) and a snotty elitist glare that merely looks as though one is turning up their nose when they don't get their way (not a stink eye whatsoever).
Stink eyes are the most common replacement for saying "asshole" or flipping the bird, but the discreetness and intimacy involved with the stink eye is what makes them so incredibly effective. However, they are rarely effective if unnoticed, and there's nothing worse than an ineffective stink eye. So use them wisely and sparingly.
It is not easy to give a powerful stink eye, for it's not merely a glare or raised eyebrow. It may or may not be acceptable to give the stink eye to the low brow stuff, but I'll let you be the judge of that.
The stink eye is a unique glance-slash-look that is typically perfected by women and well emulated by men. It can't last too long because you'll risk looking like a snob. Honestly, it usually takes more intellect than common sense to understand the environment in which to give one. So arguably, it's the knowledge of the violations of common sense when the stink eye is warranted most.
In no way do I condone practicing, but if you happen to catch one or see one (and it's not followed by a big smile), take a mental note. And trust me, you'll know one when you see it.
Believe it or not, the stink eye is also used flirtatiously. In my opinion, this use of the stink eye takes the cake. If a stink eye can be given but then almost immediately followed by an unbecoming smile during the same instance of making the initial eye contact, it will make you entirely forget if you deserved receiving the stink eye (which I doubt you did), and therefore, you, as the recipient, should soon approach this person and explore their personality.
Like I said earlier, don't go around giving stink eyes with unbecoming smiles afterward because the unbecoming smile is nearly as hard to produce as the stink eye.
(The inspiration for this post came, in large part, from a dinner with Hailey W. and Yvette S. in Georgetown last year. So, for my two inspirational friends, I found the following a worthy tribute to you both. I miss you!)