I was recently leading a training on the power of nonverbal communication – a third of which is made up of facial expression – and the subject of “the resting face” came up. While we hope that most of communication is conscious and intentional, we know that much of what is said – and unsaid – by our verbal and nonverbal expressions – is automatic and habitual.
Resting faces are the default setting our expressions revert to when we’re not directly in dialogue with other people. This concept has been popularized by the fake PSA that garnered more than 2 million hits on YouTube about the so-called “bitchy resting face” disorder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v98CPXNiSk.
All joking aside, once you realize that over 80% of communication is non-verbal, you begin to take notice of your own body language and facial expression, recognizing that they are communicating your thoughts and emotions on your behalf. Your resting face is communicating your state of mind to those who come into contact with you…and that’s even more powerful than what you say or do.
Call it crazy but plastic surgeons perform many “expression surgeries” such as grin lifts to overturn droopy or downturned mouths and droopy or overarched brows that create angry or grumpy expressions. Botox injections are extremely common in relaxing the vertical “11s” that make people look mad.
There’s a direct connection between our emotions (how we feel) and our expressions (how we appear). Our nonverbal messages convey our emotional states. Of the 60,000 thoughts we have per day, most thoughts are repetitive and negative. To change our non-verbal communication, we need to go to the source: the mind! Whatever we’re deep in thought over is reflected on our resting face and broadcasts our message to the world around us. Begin to monitor the messages of the mind (self-talk) and this will simultaneously impact your resting face (nonverbal communication). To overturn and lift our downturned and droopy facial expression, we need to uplift our spirits and raise our confidence, deeply and authentically.
Finally, because nonverbal messages account for more than 80% of all communication, regardless of how you feel in general (happy and satisfied with your life), your default look will determine how others feel about you (approachable, intimidating, etc.)
Lee Broekman is a communication coach and trainer. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying keynote presentations, seminars and CLEs to your firm or organization.