I read a neuroscience research article recently about facial expressions that has very interesting news for us as coaches and more generally just as people.
At times our face can reveal more than a thousand words and we may be totally unaware that our expressions are displaying our thoughts and intentions. Unless, of course, you are wearing sunglasses and playing poker!
According to professor Alan J. Fridlund, our facial expressions stem primarily from intentions and not from feelings. Fridlund and British researcher Carlos Crivelli, make their case in their paper, “Facial Displays Are Tools for Social Influence,”
Professor Fridlund said that “Our faces are not about us, but about where we want a social interaction to go. For example, the ‘cry’ face is usually considered an expression of sadness, but we use that face to solicit succor, whether that means reassurance, words of comfort or just a hug.”
Fridlund challenges our assumption about facial expressions: a smiley face is the same as ‘happy’ and that a sad face is the same as ‘sad’. He explains that a monkey at the zoo that smiles at you is not necessarily happy — it is giving a ‘submissive threat grimace.’” and although “there is no doubt that what we do with our facial displays is different than what nonhumans do,” Fridlund said, “our displays function in many of the same ways. They act as social tools in behavioral negotiation.”
For this reason, Fridlund explains that ‘angry’ faces don’t necessarily mean we’re actually angry. We may be frustrated, hurt or even constipated! — but regardless of how we feel, those faces serve to subdue, intimidate or signal possible retaliation against whomever we point them at.
- How can we as coaches use this new knowledge?
- What could I do different when my client give me a sad face? or a happy face? Or clueless face?
- Even better, what about our own facial expressions as a coach. Are we aware of the signals we are giving to our clients? How much of these are affecting the coaching relationship?
- So what are your facial expressions while coaching. Are you giving your intentions away?
You can read in detail the article here: strategic expression
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