Effective Leaders Read Facial Expressions
Most of us have fantasized about having the ability to read people’s minds. In addition to the fun and scary stuff we’d undoubtedly pick up, it would certainly create countless advantages in our business dealings.
Well, you don’t have to be a mind reader to get a solid sense of what people are thinking and how they’re feeling; you just have to be a body language reader. In particular, paying attention to facial expressions provides easy, reliable, useful insights. While people manipulate the messages they send via what they say—their verbal language—they tend to betray the truth in their faces and other aspects of nonverbal language.
Are Faces All the Same?
Some may be prettier than others, but the ways people register fundamental emotions on their faces are universal. Charles Darwin was the first to suggest this was the case back in the mid-19th century, and even the most contemporary research supports his theory.
No matter where in the world people come from and regardless of culture and upbringing, they all wear seven basic emotions on their faces the same way. These include happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, contempt, and disgust. Body language experts call these macroexpressions, which generally last for 0.5 to 4 seconds and affect the entire face, and they’re quite recognizable.
Then there are microexpressions, which are much more fleeting and harder to detect and read. These have more variations, but are universal signs of concealed emotions. They often indicate deception, whether it’s outright lying or an attempt to mask genuine thoughts and feelings in the moment.
Why Read Faces?
As a leader, paying attention to and translating the facial expressions of those around you provides practically endless benefits. For starters, it helps determine whether or not people are being truthful. When facial expressions don’t match up with what you’re hearing or when there’s no eye contact, something’s amiss.
Making accurate assessments about what people are thinking and feeling also lets you more directly address their concerns. Often, it’s the only way to even know there are concerns going unexpressed. This furthers the perception that you’re a discerning, intuitive, and trustworthy leader who takes an interest in others. It also greatly enhances salesmanship and negotiation skills.
The faces of employees, advisors, board members, partners, clients, vendors, contractors, and everyone else you deal with in the course of day-to-day business are full of useful content. Leaders who learn to glean this extra “insider” information readily become the strongest, most well-respected, most effective leaders of all.