Modern Etiquette: Reading micro-expressions can reap rewards

Written by Reuters | Updated: Aug 11 2014, 18:16pm hrs
Micro-Expression Being able to perceive and correctly interpret micro-expressions is one of the best ways to boost your success, credibility, and confidence in the workplace.
Imagine if you could sit across the table from your boss, or a potential client, and know what they're thinking without them saying a word. It turns out, that reality is not as far-fetched an idea as you might think.

According to body language expert Janine Driver, president of the Body Language Institute, "Being able to perceive and correctly interpret micro-expressions is one of the best ways to boost your success, credibility, and confidence in the workplace. The trick is being able to spot micro-expressions and recognize them for what they are."

Basically, micro-expressions (fleeting and involuntary facial expressions, some as fast as 1/25th of a second) convey how a person is truly feeling even when they're making an effort to suppress their emotions. Micro-expressions can reveal the "hidden truth" of how someone is feeling and offer valuable insight into the kind of impact you're having on others.

However, it's important not too assume that every micro-expression is about you or what you're presenting. When you see a reaction, you should take a moment to do due diligence.

It's possible that while you were talking price, someone else just panicked that they left the iron on or remembered an important email they forgot to send.

When you see a negative micro-expression, take a moment and ask a question such as, "Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe I'm sensing some hesitation on your part." You might discover that the negative reaction you saw wasn't about your pricing but because another company quoted them three times as much the day before.

Some particularly informative micro-expressions include:

- The Squint: It's human instinct to block anything undesirable by squinting. When a potential client squints while reading a contract or an employee does the same while reading a performance review, it's an indicator they disagree or dislike something they're seeing.

- The Eyeblock: Similar to squinting, touching or covering one's eyes is an indication that the person is troubled by something they've learned.

- The Brow Read: The position of an individual's eyebrows is a good indicator of their level of confidence with a given situation. The higher the brows, the higher the confidence.

- The Flutter: When an individual's eyelids begin to flutter in a conversation it signals they are uncomfortable with what's being said. Because eye flutters occur when the discomfort begins, it's advisable to change the topic when a flutter is noted.

- The Disappearing Lips: When stressed, anxious, or responding negatively to a situation, people tend to press their lips together and draw them in. Like the eye flutter, this response typically happens at the precise moment the negative response occurs.

- The Pucker: Puckered or pursed lips are a good indicator that an individual disagrees with what's being said or presented. If you see a lip purse in a sales pitch, it's a good time to try a new angle.

Learning to read micro-expressions isn't difficult but requires you to pay close attention to what is, and isn't, being said and to delve deeper with probing questions. By picking up on a few small clues, you can glean big rewards in the form of more successful management, increased sales, and better negotiations.