The Daily Challenge: Your Expression
Communication is more than what you say.
Time to Read: 4 Mins
We communicate through a variety of non-verbal cues, including facial expressions.
Becoming more aware of what your face is doing and what your expression is communicating will help you make sure your non-verbal and verbal communication match. It will also help you choose an expression that shows the right emotions and intent.
People make assumptions about facial expressions based on their previous experience. Expressions such as scowls, frowns, and pursed lips, are often seen as a reflection of what we are feeling in that exact moment. But that's not actually the case. Studies suggest that our faces often show our intentions and expectation of the outcome, not just our current feelings.
Because of this, “some researchers argue that people should read faces not as expressions of innermost feelings, but as indications of how someone wants the interaction to go”, writes Talya Rachel Meyers.
Today, take a couple minutes to follow the steps below to become more aware of your nonverbal communication.
Step 1: Take note of the expressions you use to show you are present and paying attention. During your next conversation, draw awareness to how your expression might be communicating your thoughts to the other person. Given your facial expressions, will they think you are interested? concerned? intrigued?
Step 2: Observe other peoples' facial expressions in conversations. What are the speaker's tone, body language, and facial expressions indicating?
To become more aware of the impact of facial expressions, take note of the assumptions you are making based on the expressions of the speaker. Consider how accurately you feel the speakers facial expressions are reflecting their intent and feelings on the topic.
Step 3: Practice mirroring. Are your expressions appropriately mirroring the content of the conversation? “Mirroring shows empathy, a desire to understand someone else, to join them in a mutual experience, and to develop a bond and trust”.
Try mirroring the facial expressions of the speaker rather than letting your expression indicate how you are feeling. For example, if the speaker is excited, let your face show enthusiasm.
Pro Tip: It's helpful to understand how others perceive our expressions. Consider asking a trusted coworker or peer for their perceptions of what your facial expressions are communicating in different situations.
More on non-verbal communication:
Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace (The Balance)
Why Our Facial Expressions Don't Match Our Feelings (BBC)
How Nonverbal Communication Can Help in the Workplace (Chron)
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