Facial Expressions 101

The most important thing in communication is what isn’t said. —Peter Drucker

What are the different facial expressions a key component of non-verbal communication telling you in this picture?

No matter what, you will be judged by how you look and your visible and audible reactions.

I have a very expressive face. Sometimes it’s great – because when I care about something you can see it in my face: Other times, I can look a lot more angry (and scary) than I am – which consistently leads to negative outcomes. Bottomline: When I am charged with emotions I have to purposely work to control my facial expressions or people get the wrong impression, and no matter what I say, they think what they see is the truth!  That makes me come across as untrustworthy, when I am actually one of the most honest people around! Since I am passionate all the time – my self-control is vital to my communication!

Enhancing awareness of your own and others’ nonverbal communication is a key to successful communication. Since we’ve been using it for thousands of years, there are many forms of nonverbal communication, and almost all can be interpreted without translation. Did you know that non-verbal communication includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sounds: silence, ignoring someone; humming, singing, or other noises
  • Facial expressions, eye contact, hairstyle, facial hair, makeup, wrinkles, acne or skin problems, teeth quality, glasses, or hearing aids
  • Physical build and body type, indicting health, strength, fragility, or obesity
  • Body movements, positions, and signs of tension
  • Jewelry, piercings, tans, scars, and tattoos
  • Dress: appropriateness for the occasion, absence or presence of signs of rank, shoes, and socks/stockings
  • Touch: type, amount, frequency, and location
  • Environment: location and spatial positioning
  • Gifts: type, frequency, expense
  • Other actions: forgetting, not being on time, using someone, not helping or going out of your way to help, overt disrespect or respect
  • Digital / Internet related: emoticons, doctoring pictures, posting pictures to elicit an emotional response, not using capital letters to shout at other people
  • What you read, types of music you listen to, exercises you do or do not do, whom you communicate with publically, transportation modes, and websites or stores you visit

Nonverbal communication occurs constantly, typically without conscious thought and without any words. While things like expressions and visible tension are universally understood, other things, such as dress or choice of music, are subjectively assessed by the world and may not be interpreted the way you want them to be, but rather through other peoples’ filters. Interpretation also depends on your age, your profession, the audience, and your setting. The first step is to recognize the various nonverbal messages you might be sending.  Making simple changes to create positive impressions and to control the nonverbal messages you send are simple and powerful ways to enhance your communication effectiveness, your happiness, and your overall success.

To build awareness of the importance of non-verbal communication try Activity 8.1: Nonverbal Communication. For greatest benefit complete this fun activity with someone you know (or two) different age and/or gender.  If you try this exercise post some comments afterwards.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Facial Expressions 101

  1. Kim’s comment reminds me of the importance of using “Active Listening” techniques -which requires one to be fully present in the conversation, and repeat back what is being said, including appropriate additions like “I gather you were very frustrated when your car wouldn’t start”. There’s a great vid from the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” that shows it in practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VOubVB4CTU

  2. This “Non verbal communication is a key to success” is a great reminder and when setting priorities and goals some of these ideas may be helpful in framing priorities and goals , such as how do I look to others and do I want to change that appearance to help my professional development ?

    • Exactly!! The purpose of the post was for each person to think about how they are perceived by others and if needed, to tweak their appearance, words and actions so that they “show up” to others as they would like to. This is an ongoing challenge for me because I have messy hair and tend to be way to outspoken! I have to really work hard at staying positive (when I could be very critical), holding myself back and choosing my words carefully!!

      What do you think is the change to your non-verbal communication that would have the most impact in your professional obligations? personal life?