Cracking the Facial Language Code

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Making sense of body language can seem a bit daunting if you're not used to it. A good place to start is to focus on your facial language, because the face is the area that people pay the most attention to when they're in conversation.

Facial language consists of head nods, tilts, blinks, winks, changes in expression, smiles, and eye contact. The more animated your expression, the easier it is for people to read your mood and intentions.

^JST Studies have shown that facial language counts for around 40 per cent of the impact of your body language. The farther away things ) are from the brain, the harder they are to control, but as the face is right up there, you should be able to exert a reasonable level of control over it, to give the impression you desire.

The seven expressions

People can gain a great deal of information about your emotional state from the expressions on your face. The attitudes you convey, or are being conveyed towards you, can be clearly seen.

Whilst dozens of descriptions for facial expressions exist -delirious, ecstatic, devastated, and so on - actually only seven facial expressions can accurately be identified. Anything else is just interpretation and thus can be misinterpreted.

The seven emotional expressions are:

Fear

Anger

Interest

Contempt

Disgust

Happiness

Sadness

The face is usually the first part of a person we look at. Adopting a positive expression, using good eye contact and a smile, is a powerful means of communication with both the object of your desire and your colleagues. Remember, if someone thinks you like them, they're much more likely to like you in return.

Research shows that people with attractive faces are often credited with having a number of other attributes, like honesty and intellect, which they may not possess! Don't assume that someone who is very attractive is perfect.

Be conscious of what your face is doing both at work (for practice) and when you're socialising, to get used to using the full range of facial expressions available to you. Try nodding when someone is speaking; research shows that by nodding, you appear more engaged and interested and they're likely to speak for up to three times longer.

The power of the gaze

Apparently, the eyes are the window to the soul and you can tell a lot about what someone is thinking by where and how they're looking. Humans are the only primates to have developed the whites of the eye as an aid to communication. The whites allow others to see where you're looking, and the direction in which you look is linked to your emotional state. If you look down and to your right, you're likely to be recalling a feeling; down and to the left and you're most likely to be talking internally to yourself.

Research shows that to build a good rapport with someone, your gaze should meet theirs between 60 to 70 per cent of the time during conversation. If someone observes you looking at them a lot, they're likely to think you like them and in return are more likely to like you.

Here's an interesting titbit: research also shows that both sexes have a greater ability to read eye signals than body signals, and that women are better at it than men.

You can use your eyes to convey other messages and engender other reactions as well:

✓ Ladies, widen your eyes by raising your eyebrows and eyelids to create a baby-faced look. This look has a powerful effect on men: it releases hormones in their brain and stimulates the desire to protect and defend females.

Princess Diana made looking coy an art form, eliciting maternal and paternal reactions towards her from the public. Lowering the head and looking up is not only a submissive gesture, it appeals to men because it makes the woman appear more child-like and vulnerable. You can see in Figure 10-5 that the woman has lowered her head and is giving a sideways glance in a submissive pose, which men find attractive.

✓ Guys, if trimming your eyebrows, trim them from the top of the eyebrow down to make your eyes appear narrower and more authoritative.

Figure 10-5: Looking coy and submissive.

Hooked in four seconds

A TV presenter found herself single and keen to find a new man, but was having little success. She followed the four-second rule just as a laugh, and was astonished at how well it worked. Not only was it painless and rejection free, it had the men flocking over to say hello without her having to do anything. She said she felt quite cheesy the first time she tried it, but after a couple of goes, she loved the simplicity and efficacy of the approach.

Try this really easy, obvious tip at the first opportunity. You'll be amazed at how easy doing the four-second glance is - it will become a staple trick in your flirting armoury.

The four-second glance

Four seconds doesn't seem long when you say it, but can seem like forever the first time you actively try to stare at someone for this long. The four-second glance is:

✓ Highly effective in getting someone to spot that you've noticed them

✓ The first step in the non-verbal hello process

✓ Virtually rejection risk free

Body language that stands out from the norm is more eye-catching. If you're looking around as usual, how can you let someone know you're actually checking them out and liking what you see, without actually speaking to them?

The four-second glance is as straightforward as it sounds:

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1. Look at the person for four seconds.

2. Look away briefly.

If they're still looking, take it as a positive sign that they've noticed your four-second glance and are checking you out.

A four-second glance is long enough to let someone know you've noticed them. Avoid staring for longer than that - a ten-second glance indicates that you're about to either beat them up or leap into bed with them!

What's in a smile?

Smiling is very important. It not only lets people know you like them, this facial expression is also universally considered to show happiness. Smiling is also a submission signal, which means people aren't likely to feel threatened around you when you do it. Smiling should be a well-used part of your flirting armoury.

Smile regularly, even if you don't feel like it, because doing so directly influences other people's attitudes and how they respond to you. Smiling is contagious; it causes someone to smile back at you even if your smile is fake and so is theirs.

Fake or real? Judging smiles

The smile is controlled by two sets of muscles, one that runs down the side of the face and connects with the mouth, and one that pulls the eyes back. You can consciously control the muscles of your mouth, which means you can fake a smile, but the muscles that control the eyes act independently and can't be faked. Check the sincerity of a smile by looking for wrinkles around the eyes. Not surprisingly, insincere people smile only with their mouths and it's a turn off for the recipient. Figure 10-6 demonstrates both a fake smile and a real one.

Here's a smile check you can use to see whether the smiles you're getting back are real or polite false ones. Sometimes people can fake a smile so hard that lines do appear around their eyes, but this effect is actually caused by their cheeks bunching up. As an extra check, the eye cover fold (the fleshy part between the eyelid and the eyebrow) moves downward and the ends of the eyebrows dip slightly in a genuine smile.

Figure 10-6: A fake smile (left); a real smile (right).

Space invader

Sally was on a blind date with Angus and they were sitting opposite each other at the table. The waiter gave them both a menu and left them to consider their orders. Whilst she was choosing, Angus pushed his knife and fork out to the side, his glass forward, and the salt and pepper over the middle of the small table onto Sally's side. Finally, he 'cornered' Sally on a small piece of the table with his cutlery and glass. She obviously felt invaded and set about trying to recapture her half of the table. Angus paid Sally compliments but she was too distracted by now to notice. Angus had made a terrible mistake; he'd aggressively dominated the table before he got to know Sally and had put her on the defensive.

Sally playfully challenged Angus and asked him why he felt the need to dominate her half of the table. He laughed and said he hadn't even realised he'd done it. This probably explained why none of his previous dates had seemed keen to meet again.

On the next date, Angus kept his hands off the cutlery and the lunch started much more positively - in fact, they got on like a house on fire. After the main course, Sally cleared the condiments away from the middle to the edge of the table, then pushed her glass over onto his side, leaving a clear gap between them. Angus reached out across the table and offered her his hand to hold. Sealed with a nice bit of intentional touching, they enjoyed a lovely romantic lunch.

Use the contents of your table, or whatever is in your space, to open up a gap between you and invite the other person into your territory to take your flirting to the next level without having to say a word.

Common smite types

Other than the straightforward toothy smile we all acknowledge as friendly and welcoming, you need to be aware of a number of other smiles:

✓ Tight-lipped: Where the lips are drawn across the face to form a straight line and no teeth are visible. This smile's common in people who don't want to reveal that they don't like someone, or that they're holding back their feelings.

✓ Twisted: Where the smile isn't symmetrical. This expression is deliberate and is intended to convey sarcasm.

✓ Droppedjaw: This smile conveys the impression that the person is laughing or playful.

✓ Coy: A smile combined with looking up sideways, as perfected by Princess Diana. The smiler looks playful and seductive and is conveying a definite flirting signal.

Practise recognising these common types of smile to identify what responses your smiles are eliciting and who's flirting with you.

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