In recent weeks and the upcoming few months a lot of my workshops include facilitating discussions about how our thoughts impact our lives. This discussion always leads to debate as to whether we are able to “pull the wool over each other’s eye’s” when relaying a story about a colleague, friend of family member.
Question: Are we able to hide our real thoughts and emotions about a person when discussing said person with another? What do you think?
The answer is that it is very difficult to not give ourselves away. Our facial expressions will reflect our emotional thoughts and in turn this will trigger small adjustments in our body language that we will be unaware of. Never underestimate the power of our facial expressions.
Learning how to read and interpret each other’s expressions is essential when honing our communication skills. Professor Paul Ekman, considered to be a world expert in reading facial expressions proved, in the 1960’s, that we have 7 universal human emotions that are expressed exactly the same irrespective of our age, gender, culture or race. E.g. a goat herder in Mongolia will have the same facial expression as an Executive of a corporate company.
All for a very good reason, our survival as a species!
Without words we would have had to communicate in some uniform way. Language has now been added to our communication skill set however, if we pulled it all the way back to simple body language we would be able to understand each other. So what are the 7 facial expressions I hear you ask?
Happiness – Preferably a smile that includes the eyes – A Duchenne
Sadness – The eyes droop and the corners of the mouth turn down
Contempt – Asymmetry face with a small lip corner tightened on one side of the face only
Surprise – Quickest expression of all. Raised eyebrows, eyes wide, and mouth open
Anger – Various intensities. Eyebrows lower. Eyes glare. Lips tighten. Upper lip pulled back.
Disgust – Nose wrinkles. Upper lip is raised.
Fear – Warning signals. Eyebrows rise. Lower lip tenses. Lips slightly stretched.
To find out more see this article.
Try this one at home: Find a friend and tell them a story about someone and ask them to guess what emotions you have about this person. How did you do? Are you able to hide your emotional thoughts?
Perhaps being authentic and true to yourself is a preferred way forward than hiding your emotions?