Did you know that other people are picking up information from you ALL the time? Even if you aren’t speaking or doing anything, you are still communicating. Many people don’t know the unconscious messages they are giving out, partly because you can’t watch yourself the whole time...
Most of us only see ourselves in a mirror when getting ready in the morning, some people get very uncomfortable watching videos of themselves and for good reason, what we observe on a video is often out of sync with how we see ourselves.
Your ‘resting’ face - the face you make when you’re just sitting around doing nothing, gives other people a lot of information but it is not always accurate. We know people who look constantly confused when they are actually enjoying themselves or people who nod constantly and so look like they’re agreeing, even when they don’t! Your resting face is important because it’s how people form their first impressions. We make first impressions by using generalised expressions and micro expressions we have learned has meaning - like a nod means agreeing or looking at the ceiling means you’re bored. The problem is that these generalisations are not always correct which is why people often misread other people. You can’t change the meaning other people make because they are often unaware of it themselves, but you can make sure that the message you are giving off is as accurate as possible.
Find out the message you are giving out
With technology now it’s a bit easier, you can see your resting face when you are on Skype or even by videoing yourself on your smart phone. If you were to meet you for the first time what would you think? Jolly or serious? Interested or bored? Open or hostile?
A really effective way is to ask at least three people to give you some feedback - what message does your face give when you’re just sitting in a meeting or watching telly. You need more than one view to see if the message is consistent or whether people pick up different messages.
Make small tweaks to align your ‘resting’ face with the message you intend
You don’t need to turn into a cheshire cat, it’s best to start with small changes so that it comes across as natural. Here are some suggestions (all generalisations of course!)
- Make a bit more eye contact with other people to show interest
- Smile more if you want to appear warm or open.
- If you have a face people often mistake for confused or serious (can be a thinking face), rather than stare into space make notes if you are thinking, this will avoid other people getting confused of getting the wrong .impression.
- If you look up to process information move you head to a ‘thinking’ pose to avoid people mistaking it for eye rolling.
Miscommunication causes a lot of relational issues and wastes time and energy, which is why, whilst a small thing, it’s critical to pay attention to so that you don’t end up inadvertently giving people the wrong message or having to constantly explain yourself.
Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, Karen is also a UKCP registered Psychotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. Her new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.
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