Have you ever been on the subway or in an elevator and noticed the expressions of the people around you? Most do not keep a pleasant expression or slight smile on their face at rest. More seem to look unpleasant, irritated, or just tired.
Business leaders spend a lot of effort building teams, networking and crafting strategic plans. We take care to wear the right business attire and select the right LinkedIn photo. The word content of meeting presentations, conversations, and email is backed by the wealth of experience, business education and skills, and tailored to the particular situation at present. But, what separates highly effective leaders is the delivery of words with the synergy of nonverbal cues that can make the difference between a strained relationship, uncertain emotional context, and how others interpret those communications.
Eye contact, body language and the expression on your face sends a signal to your colleagues, your customers and even your family and friends. Sometimes, it may even be vital to master a no expression “poker face” in the business world. In any situation, how others perceive us is important in the success of a leader.
The Emotion Research Lab is a company founded by two MBA classmates, Maria Pocovi (an expert in neuromarketing and neuropolitics) and Alicia Mora (an industrial and electronic engineer). Through their system, the Emotion Research Lab can detect and analyze emotions through facial expression. While it is still a relatively new concept, it has already been successful in political applications, marketing and machine learning, having analyzed over 503,000 faces and been involved in over 1,120 projects worldwide.
Our faces are the first part of our presentation, and there is a risk of misinterpretation of thoughts or emotions. Absolute divinely proportioned good looks or beauty is not a requirement for business success, but looking angry or tired can make a big difference in any profession. Misinterpretation of your emotions can lead to problems. And, feelings can be hurt during the inevitable difficult conversations if someone perceives a more negative meaning than you intend.
The more senior your role in an organization, the more meanings those around you may attempt to make of your facial expression. You may not be able to prevent these subconscious effects, but you should be aware that an unconscious frown could be misconstrued.
My recommendation is do an honest self assessment. When you look in the mirror, do you look more tired than you feel? Do you see a resting face that appears angry? Some of this may be due to aging, overactive, or stressed forehead and eye area muscles. Treatment with Botox or a similar medication could help relax these areas and may be necessary to prevent an angry or unhappy look.
Finally, be aware of your facial expression. Find a neutral expression and practice using it when you are in meetings or not yet ready to make a decision. It could make the difference in your key emotional connections and how you are perceived as a leader.