How to read Facial expressions by Body Language
How face plays a role in expressing ourselves
Remember that time when you not so liked one of your relatives and they came to visit you and you portrayed your happiness throughout their stay even though you were feeling quite the otherwise. These are common instances which we experience a day in and day out be it our home or workplace when we can’t stand sometimes our colleagues and vice versa but we exist along with complete peace and harmony by smiling at each other even though that’s not quite the feeling.
We have often heard that face tells us precisely what one is thinking and feeling. Is that the case? Say when you go shopping you are greeted very warmly by the salesperson present there, but can a person be always this happy. Then the people who work as salespeople, air hostesses or hotel staff, or even our pizza delivery guys could have been the happiest employees on earth. Which as we are aware is not the case at all times.
So then is the famous saying by Ludwig Wittgenstein “The face is the soul of the body” true? Let’s explore.
What is Facial Expression?
Before that here is a brief background on the origin of the face or facial expressions. Facial expressions come under our nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication has been an integral part of our survival, as it has helped us to effectively adapt to situations. It’s very vast consisting of things right from different body postures, gestures, accessories, tone to name a few. These gestures are illustrated through various parts of the body like hands, feet, torso, and facial expressions which helps us to explain and understand others in a better way.
So now let’s see the role of one such part of our body which according to most people is easiest to read, yes our faces. The use of facial expressions is not limited just to humans but animals as well. When encountered with any threat animals use their body-like eyes, peculiar sounds in a coded format, or clap their hands or feet to alert those around. Thus facial expressions have served as a crucial tool of communication among the living species.
In humans, too facial expressions are present right from infancy. As young as 3-6 months old can show happiness, sadness, disgust very accurately. There is good research which states that infants preferred happier faces over fearful ones.
There are more than 10,000 different facial expressions that can be manifested by us. Some of the emotions that we communicate include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, threat, and surprise to name a few. Sometimes we communicate not the real feelings with others due to a variety of reasons which are mentioned below. So let’s bust the myth that our faces can speak the truth.
When asked series of difficult questions in an interview often candidates are smiling with their eyebrows raised a bit of eye flutter. If you just go by what you see on their face they seem pretty happy and relaxed but if you observe carefully they are not happy but are nervous or are stressed by the question so it’s nervous laughter. If you observe more carefully you may see the person never made eye contact was fidgeting with their accessories like a ring, watch, and tie, or even adjusting the court or cuffs which indicates stress. So it’s not the face that has to be observed but the entire body. As in this case, the person may indicate other things like the arms, torso, or feet to name a few.
Our arms help in communication was there any hand gestures, were the hands on the table or below the table, was there a handshake, and were they biting their nails. Similarly, our feet speak like feet shaking behavior, sudden change in feet, feet are interlocked. These speak volumes more than our spoken words. So next time try not to observe just the face but the entire body of the person as it could lead to miscommunication and in some extreme cases lead to serious losses.
When it comes to our face it’s not just a smile but also eye contact too much or too little of it. Imagine you are conversing with your friend and they refuse to look at you. Can you continue speaking? How many of you would actually grab their attention before you continue speaking? We need constant feedback from them in terms of their eye contact, hands, feet, or torso.
What you may be missing
You have gone for a meeting and you realize the person who gave the proposal seemed promising by looking at them and you agreed on their terms. But later on, after checking everything you realized it was flawed and suffered a huge loss which was evident in the presenter’s body language if you would have observed the entire body and not just the face. So even though the face showed confidence their discomfort was evident through their hand gesture which never matched their words, there were a lot of things in between you and the presenter which showed no concern for removing the barriers and many other things.
Sometimes these errors could go up to an extreme level like that of the famous case of Ted Bundy who even though was a serial rapist and killer was known for his attractive and charming self, due to which he escaped numerous times as cops looking at his face thought he wouldn’t be criminal.
So next time regardless of the situation you are experiencing try to observe as much as you can and not just rely on the face because faces do lie as we have been taught to hide our true feelings by masking a happier version of ourselves right from childhood be it a human or some food item that we didn’t like eating and our parents said don’t make faces and we changed our facial expressions to neutral or happy ones. As the first part of the body that we observe in a person is their facial expressions
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