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Saturday, May 23, 2009

JETNETTING: The First Impression Factor, Part XII: Facial Expression II

JetNetting with Heshie Segal

In last month's article, the gist of what we covered was how facial expressions:

*Are a significant form of sending and receiving wordless messages

*Can convey the real meaning behind the message, often expressing what words cannot.

*Can invariably determine someone’s emotional state by simply watching the movements of their facial muscles.

When you understand and can monitor the expressions you reveal and comprehend what you observe in others, the first impression factor can be influenced in significant ways.

Ponder this: Are you impressed by the calm you see in someone’s facial expressions? Do you feel uplifted when you see an expression of joy? Are you disturbed by an expression of anger? Do you worry when you see a look of confusion? Anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise, the seven internationally recognized states of emotion seen through facial expressions, are the focus of today’s column. The categories below will give you a brief overview of how to recognize someone’s emotional state. This will assist you in “reading” them. It will also help you know what reaction you might expect when you are perceived to be expressing any of these emotions. Knowledge is power. Remember things don’t happen in a vacuum and your observation of a cluster of reactions. . . facial expression changes . . . will provide you with a more accurate evaluation.


The angry expression can convey a variety of messages, among them hostility and opposition. It has a toxic effect on the person who is angry as well as those who are in the same environment. Negative impressions are almost instantly triggered when anger appears . . . not the way to begin or maintain a relationship.

The emotion of anger strongly affects the facial and skeletal musculature. Generally, the face becomes flushed. The fore head is creased, brow muscles move downward and inward as upper and lower eyelids narrow and tighten. The eyes are open wide, holding a prolonged (or fixed), intense glare. Nostrils flare, lips have a tendency to clench tightly, with jaw thrusting forward.


An expression of contempt is derived from a person having a strong feeling of dislike for something or someone considered to be undeserving of respect, inferiority and unworthiness.

The facial expression that universally signals contempt is a tightening and slight raising of the upper lip, or lip corner, into a sneer or smirk. It is the only emotion expressed asymetrically, appearing on just one side of the face, creating a sense of imbalance. The nose may turn up slightly or simply wrinkle a bit. Eyebrows may be lowered and, unlike the emotion of anger, the eyes themselves may appear to be relaxed.

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Expressions of disgust are often seen as the face and body react to objects that are revolting and nauseating, such as unclean or inedible food, something that is offensive or morally unacceptable, visually or verbally.

The most noticeable signs of disgust are raised cheek muscles, lowered eyebrows, wrinkled nose, raised upper lip, and protruding lower lip.


An expression of fear is an emotional response to imminent threats, danger or likelihood of bodily harm or pain. Unlike anxiety, it is triggered by an external source.

Because fear is often preceded by surprise, the eyes tend to open wide, with the whites becoming more visible and the pupils dilating, allowing additional light to enter. The muscles around the eyes tense up, especially the lower eyelids, the brows draw together as they and the eyelids are raised high, caused by the tensing. Mid-forehead wrinkles appear. The mouth opens wide. The upper lip rises, both lips stretch horizontally and the jaw drops.


Happiness comes from a sense of well-being, contentment, enjoyment and satisfaction.

It’s difficult to fake happiness or a true smile. It can be done for the camera and then disappears. With an expression of happiness, a sense of calm lingers in the background - even though the heart may be racing with joy. It is being content and at peace with yourself.

Happiness is visible on the face when teeth are exposed, the corners of the lips are drawn back and curve upward, lifting the mouth into a smile. Raised and wrinkled cheeks are accompanied by a widening of the eyes. This is associated by the creation of wrinkles in the corners of the eyes, also known as "crow's feet"


When people are sad, they are experiencing sorrow or discontent, distress, dejection, dissatisfaction or depression.

In a typical sad expression, cheeks are raised, eyes are narrowed, eyelids droop as eyebrows

are pulled down . . . and in extreme sadness, drawn together. The mouth and corners of the lips create a down-turn and while lips may quiver, the lower lip may push up in a pout and the chin drops toward the chest.


Expressions of surprise are spontaneous, momentary and involuntary. They can last for as little as a fraction of a second and can be longer. Surprise is generally followed . . . almost instantly

. . . by expressions of fear, happiness, confusion or other facial characterizations. Invariably, they are in response to an unexpected event. The magnitude of the surprise will determine the measure or the exaggeration of the facial expression.

When surprise is expressed in the face, wrinkles appear across the forehead; upper eyelids and brows rise. As the upper lid is raised and stretched up, the lower lid is drawn down, resulting in the eyes being naturally widened. The jaw drops and the mouth becomes relaxed and open.

In a first impression situation, you may not take the necessary time to get to know someone when that fleeting signal spells something negative. When you are perceived to be transmiting this type of signal, others may not know you are having a bad day, not feeling well, lost a job, were momentarily thrown back to a past negative experience, and so on and so on. Suddenly, you are history! When the situation is reversed, you will want to avoid being judgemental. You will appreciate the favor in return.

As you now move into a new stage, understanding what your facial expresions can mean, there are some key points to keep in mind. You DO want to make a positive first impression; you do want to remain aware of what you are projecting.

Fake does not work. If your facial expressions are not congruent with your feelings,

words and message, they will reveal incongruence, which will be interpreted as dishonesty.

So, avoid inappropriate and artificial expressions as they will rapidly initiate distrust and


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