Many people don’t pay much attention to the facial expressions and head movements they use when they speak. They can’t understand why their listeners get confused or ask them questions about what they really mean or how they truly feel. Because our facial expressions make up an important part of our body language, we want to make sure that they match our intended message.
If you are someone who doesn’t give body language much thought, then this article is for you. Using the correct facial expressions and head movements to express yourself effectively and accurately is essential for everyone, both in their business and personal lives.
Let’s take a look at this social scenario. You are at a social gathering at a friend’s house and start a conversation with a new person. While they are telling you all about their recent vacation and how much fun they had, you can’t help but notice that there is something in their hair that is driving you nuts. You frown because you can’t figure out what it is, not realizing that the person speaking sees your frown and gets the impression that you either don’t agree with what they are saying or are offending them in some way. What a disaster! How do you recover from that? You don’t really know this person, so it’s not like you can just pick out that bothersome thing out of their hair. Do you apologize and tell the person that there is something in their hair, risking the fact that you haven’t listened to a word they said, or do you just let it go? The damage is already done, isn't it?
Here’s a business scenario that will most likely ring a bell with just about everyone. You are a manager and are running an important meeting. Your job is this meeting is to listen to the members of your team as they give their updates on their projects. The person giving their update has made too many mistakes, and you are upset. You purse your lips while they are in the middle of their update, which the person clearly sees. Is this what you want your employee to see? NO! As a manager, it is important that you stay calm and neutral, even when someone says something that angers or upsets you. Each situation is a problem to be solved, and you should not let your negative feelings show. You can choose to discuss the employee’s errors during the meeting or set up a time to discuss it at a later date. Either way, maintaining a neutral expression is the best way to go.
Now, last but not least, have you ever noticed that some people shake their head “no” when they are saying something positive? This is a contradiction, isn’t it? Let’s say the person is making a positive comment, such as, “I really love your home” but is shaking their head from side to side as they say it. What are you supposed to think about that? Do you believe them, or do they really mean that they don’t like your home? Sometimes, it's just hard to know what the person really means, isn't it?
Because facial expressions and head movements are very important parts of how others perceive our meaning, we need to be conscious of what we do with our eyes, eyebrows, mouth and head. The worst thing is to be misunderstood, as that could lead to all kinds of problems. Practice speaking in front of a mirror to help you become more aware of how you look when you say something positive and negative. You might be surprised at what you see!