“You were never taught how to talk with your face like you speak with words.”

These impressive words are credited to American psychologist Paul Ekman. He’s known as the founder of the study of emotions and different facial expressions.

What many of us don’t realize while we speak is that our facial expressions may be communicating something entirely different. If you’re annoyed, a simple greeting to a coworker may come off as an insult because of the frown on your face.

You don’t always know what your face is communicating. This is why it’s so important to align your facial expressions with your words. Let’s find out more about different types of facial expressions based on Dr. Ekman’s research.


Facial Expressions In The Workplace


Different facial expressions are a significant aspect of nonverbal communication. Essentially, it’s communicating without words, i.e.,  expressing yourself with body language, hand gestures and facial expressions. Professionally, it’s critical to make sure your facial expressions reflect your words otherwise you can lose your audience’s interest—or convey something you didn’t intend.


Let’s take an example:


Imagine that you have to present to your team without your manager present. It’s not a formal presentation so you’re not too worried about it. But at the last minute, you find out that your manager will be overseeing the presentation. This fills you with dread and fear—you weren’t prepared for this!

Instead of focusing on what you’re going to say, you’re fixated on this fear—and it shows. Your eyes are lowered, there’s not even a hint of a smile on your face. This impacts the way you deliver your ideas—and your intention gets lost in translation.

This is not an uncommon situation in the workplace. There are plenty of times when you’re too afraid to speak publicly—which hampers your oral delivery. When we’re nervous, underprepared or lack the confidence to speak in front of a crowd, our facial expressions tend to give us away. Learning about different facial expressions and emotions will help you stay in control of what you’re conveying to the listener. 


Types Of Facial Expressions


Whether you’re making a speech, giving a presentation or simply introducing yourself to a coworker, you have to strive to control your facial expressions. If you don’t like someone at work, for instance, you can’t scowl at them. Imagine you’re at a team lunch with a scowl on your face because you’re unhappy with your lunch mate. This won’t go down so well with others.


Here’s Dr. Ekman’s list of seven emotions to understand types of facial expressions:

  • Happiness

  • Sadness

  • Fear

  • Anger

  • Disgust

  • Contempt

  • Surprise

Say you’re talking to someone at work about weekend plans. They’re smiling but it doesn’t reach their eyes. You can instantly tell that something is wrong. They may be saying they’re excited about Saturday, but their eyes are telling a different story.

Different facial expressions can tell you a lot about a person. If your coworker appears to be sad, maybe you can ask them what’s wrong and help them through it. After all, communication is about connecting and empathizing with others.


Understanding Facial Expressions For Workplace Impact


Nonverbal cues like different expressions can help the listener understand the speaker’s intent and meaning. In the workplace, it’s important to get your ideas across without any confusion. If you’re making a speech, for instance, make sure you pay attention to your audience’s facial expressions as well. Interpreting different facial expressions will help you in multiple ways, including:

  • Building rapport with your coworkers and becoming a reliable team player

  • Being a good listener and empathizing with your team members

  • Sharpening your observation skills, helping you read and interpret a situation correctly

  • Making you more attuned to your team’s emotions

  • Improving your speaking skills by equipping you with the right tools to read your audience

Different expressions at work can mean a thousand things. When you’re trying to communicate, collaborate and coordinate with others, your facial expressions can hold a lot of weight. How you present yourself at work is important for your professional development. 

Being confident and enthusiastic at work can be infectious—in a good way. Harappa’s Speaking Effectively course will teach you how types of facial expressions and other nonverbal cues can help you become a successful professional. With awareness and determination, you can experience a more fulfilling professional life. Focus on what’s important and growth within your organization for career success.

Explore topics such as Understanding Body LanguageFacial Expression in Communication, Types of Body LanguageHow to Improve Your Body Language & Examples of Body Language from Harappa Diaries and learn to present yourself in the best way possible.

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