Read Micro Expressions to Avoid Macro Mistakes

Have you ever met someone who just gave you a a slimy feeling? Maybe others perceived them as polite and charming, yet, you walked away with the definitive thought, I didn’t like that guy.” You’re probably subconsciously reading this person’s micro expressions.

Micro expressions are very quick facial cues as to how someone is really feeling even if their words or other gestures suggest otherwise. These facial actions last usually about 1/25th of a second, but can be key components to reading into someone’s true intentions. Only about 10% of the population are highly skilled at reading these micro expressions. These people are highly intuitive. They are constantly processing and evaluating cues from their surroundings. In other words, they’re like wikid street smaht.

Luckily for those of us who don’t have these talents and fumble through things like ordering food at new restaurants, there a few experts who have dedicated years of their lives studying the science of these facial expressions. Dr. Paul Ekman traveled the world to study different groups of people and discovered that there were seven universal facial expressions people from all cultures shared, and he compiled the facial action coding system (FACS). FACS identifies small facial muscle movements and can define the emotion expressed in those microseconds. It’s basically a people decoder, which is real neat and sounds like an app we would all like to download.

But how can we use this knowledge to help us with our relationships? Ever been on a first date and thought you just nailed it? You’re warm, fuzzy, daydreaming about all the possibilities. And just when you’re about to gush to your mom, you get the soul-crushing text. ::Insert various  versions of “It’s not you it’s me” here:: The. Worst. How did you get that so completely wrong? They laughed at all your jokes,  were enchanted by your cat stories, and they told you that the content of your VHS collection showed you were a real cultured individual. What the heck? Well, I hate to say it, but they were most likely just being polite, it is you who didn’t pick up on what their body language was really saying. That’s where microexpressions can save you  time, and hopefully some heartache.

Let’s start with examining how funny they actually thought you were. When someone is genuinely laughing or smiling it’s all in the eyes (not of the beholder). If the person that you are dazzling with your wit forms the kind of smile-laugh combo that causes those lovely crow’s feet around their eyes,  you’ve totally nailed it. On the other hand, if they laugh and then suddenly purse their lips and stare away for a second, your sense of humor just probably isn’t their cup of tea. And if those chuckles seem lackluster, they probably are. But don’t panic; not everyone likes dad jokes (I know this from personal experience). But there are plenty of good guys and gals out there who do! I think we should all hold out for someone who makes us laugh so hard we almost pee our pants. But maybe those are just my #relationshipgoals

Sometimes we like someone so much it can make us nervous. I have the capacity to act like a total bozo when I really like someone. So, I survive on the hope they can read my body language better than I can “attempt” to flirt. Generally when someone is into you, their body language will show it. They may twirl their hair, overexaggerate facial expressions (think big open eyes/open mouth smiles), point their body toward yours, or even minic your body movement. How flattering! Although, if someone does a quick nose scrunch, a half smile, an eye flutter, or the ever-dreaded eye roll; then it’s time to get the check because those are all strong signs of contempt, disagreement or dissatisfaction. But hey, no bigs. We are super unlikely to meet someone who shares our morals, dreams, interests and beliefs via internet swiping. Shocking, I know. Don’t sweat it. There are plenty of dream boos out there. First be one, the rest will follow.

In the end I think we can all be guilty of taking rejection too personally, when we probably would have felt the same way sooner or later had we just seen what the other person was thinking behind those polite chuckles. Save yourself some time and energy, and just read the signs. Because if you’re always wasting time with the wrong one, you might not be paying attention when the right one is dropping those micro hints. 😉

Note: If you want to see some examples of the power of micro expression reading, check out the NYTimes article “The voice was lying. The face may tell the truth” FIND LINK! where Paul Ekman breaks down A Rod’s interview on “The Today Show” where he lied about his steroid use. Eek! 


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