It is the part of our body that most people look to in order to gauge our reaction to events. If they are trying to 'read' our thoughts, it is typically by trying to determine what our facial expressions are telling them. Is is any wonder then that when we are trying to be less transparent with our thoughts, we will seek to control our facial expressions most. We become much less animated and seek to reduce our facial affect to make us less 'readable'.
However, it is important to note that people are 'reading' us all of the time. Human beings are hard-wired into picking up on the non-verbal messaging cues of others, often taking in information at an unconscious and gut level. If we are looking to manage or control the take-away messages others have of us, we must become more consciously aware of what our non-verbal cues are saying.
Most times, when we are attempting to mask a certain message (such as nervousness) we will flatten our outward affect. In essence, we force our face to adopt a 'neutral' expression. Our 'neutral' is always our 'resting face'. This is the expression that our face assumes when we are, in essence, at rest, when we are not thinking anything in particular, are not feeling anything in particular. Our 'resting face' is our non-face. It is the expression we adopt when we are actually not expressing anything. As our personal neutral, it will typically be our go-to expression when we are attempting to mask or hide a certain signal or cue.
However, each person's neutral is actually far from it. Others will always 'see' something in your expression. It is therefore important that you spend some time coming to understand what your personal resting face is saying about you. If it is not saying what you want or need it to say then you need to learn to adopt a new neutral expression.
When at rest, our face shifts into our comfort expression. This is the look that our face will project to the world when it is essentially - at rest. When it is not formally expressing anything. However, our resting face always communicates something.
If you find that others are always asking you if you are tire, rest assured that your resting face tends to assume a tired expression - not neutral.
If you find that others frequently ask you what you're mad about, your resting expression likely tends to look angry - not neutral.
If people think that you are typically happy, it is likely that your resting expression always projects a slight smile, which is not neutral.
In order to ascertain what messages your resting face may be inadvertently sending about you...
- look at pictures of you taken during unguarded moments and determine what expression you tend to have on your face - more often than not
- consider what comments you typically get from others (like the three examples above) and think of the elements you hear most frequently
- spend time in front of a mirror putting your face into it's comfort place, the expression that feels like your neutral, and assess how you think you look
The consistent messages your receive from the three points above will provide you with clear insights into what your resting face has to say about you. Now consider... is it saying what you want others to hear? Is it conveying messages that work in support of your personal brand, or that detract from it?
If your resting face is not saying what you want and need it to consider what message you want it to be delivering instead. In essence, create your new neutral. Once you have gained clarity around what that fallback messaging would be, spend some time in front of a mirror identifying what that branded message would 'look' like, learning to identify then what that expression 'feels' like. What muscles are engaged? How much? How far?
You can't replicate the expression consistently if you have not developed your own personal means of measuring it. Understanding what it takes to create the expression allows you to duplicate and adopt it. The more consistently you do this, the more it will become a comfortable part of your expression repertoire, and the more likely that it will become habit.
We all have something to say about ourselves, even when we think we are not saying anything. What does your face say about you when it is at rest? If it's not a message that is serving you, then change it to one that does. It seems that even your lack of expression is a habit that you can modify to ensure that, even at rest, your face is telling others the story of you that you want told.