Nothing says “this is me” like your face. No other part of the human anatomy can show the volumes of information that the face offers. It is our trademark. And like good managers, executives and salespeople, we make concerted efforts to manage our brand in such a way that yields the most positive gains. The wonderful thing about the face is that we can use it to build rapport by displaying emotions such as empathy, excitement, regret, and others — and exhibiting our emotions goes a long way to building strong relationships. I’m talking about relationships that have emotional context — relationships that matter.

The challenge is knowing when someone is being completely candid about how they feel, especially in a tense business environment. In some cultures, it is a social norm to be expressive with one’s emotions. In others, allowing an emotion to show for more than a few moments would be a sign of instability. This is one scenario where an accidental misunderstanding could potentially rear its ugly head.

There is good news, though: There is no better emotion-signaling system on the body more precise than our own faces. And, all we have to do to raise our awareness of how people feel is to realize we already intuitively know the 7 universal facial expressions. Once I started paying more attention to how my own face automatically behaved, I was able to see that changes on the face really are the same for everybody.

These emotions are expressed with the same facial muscle configurations whether someone is born in New York City or Papua New Guinea. They may vary in degree — that is to say, not all the muscles may be involved in lower intensity moments — but they are the same for EVERYONE. They might even appear in flashes as quick as 1/5th of a second.

Here is more good news: These expressions cannot be faked! They are automatic and genuine. As expected, getting good at reading faces takes time and practice, but you know what? You’re already on your way to a deeper appreciation just by realizing you hold the key to understanding others. I’d like for you to try something. A little experiment, if you will. Look at yourself in the mirror and mimic the 7 universal facial expressions:

  1. Happiness
  2. Sadness
  3. Fear
  4. Contempt
  5. Disgust
  6. Anger
  7. Surprise

Pay close attention to how your face moves and how your body responds. Notice the slight differences in how your eyes, your mouth, your eyebrows, your cheeks and everything else change as you make these facial expressions. Then, try to notice when the people around you are flashing any of these emotions. You might be surprised by how often these emotions flash on our faces. Sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re leaking the truth about how we really feel.

This article was originally published by John Roldan at


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