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The Power of Body Language

Lesson 4 of 27

Microexpressions: Decoding the Face

Vanessa Van Edwards

The Power of Body Language

Vanessa Van Edwards

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Lesson Info

4. Microexpressions: Decoding the Face

Lesson Info

Microexpressions: Decoding the Face

Now we're gonna go into our next big section. This is decoding the face. So in your handouts, you should have a microexpression chart. These are all for free, in the bonus materials, so pull out that micro expression chart. I have some funny pictures on there for you. This chart is going to help us keep track of the facial expressions that we're gonna learn. I have it split up into three different columns. We have first the face and the name of the emotion. And then I'm gonna talk about the description of the facial expression. How we see the facial expression. And lastly we're gonna talk about what to do when you see that facial expression. So the action step from the science. How do we deal with it when we see a client make an angry face? Or make a fear face? So I have this great picture of our two fabulous founders at Creative Live. Chase and Craig. I feel so bad because I picked on Chase already last weekend at South by Southwest, we did Uber Live, and I picked on him now, and now ...

I'm gonna pick on him again. But the face is so incredibly important. And there's a reason I start off courses with the face. It's because it is naturally one of the first places we see, especially if we're on videos, right? If we're on video chat. Now Skype, everyone's using Skype for business. So we usually, someone is, that's all we see. We don't even get to see the rest of their body. We just see their face. And what we see on a face is incredibly powerful for our first impression. So I wanna share a really interesting study with you about the face. And it was done by an Nalini Ambady and Nicholas Rule. What they wanted to know was, can you tell how powerful a person is based on their face? And not even just their face. Just their photo. So what they did was, they took Fortune 500 pictures of CEOs. So all the top CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and they only pulled out the unrecognizable ones. So ones from previous years. And they took the bottom CEOs from Fortune 500, and they wanted to see if people could guess which of the pictures were the most successful and which of the pictures were at the bottom of the list. So they showed them these pictures and they could look at them for 20 seconds, and while they looked at the pictures, they rated them on leadership qualities. Power, warmth, competence, intelligence, charisma, I think there was about five to ten different qualities they had to rate the pictures on. Amazingly, they found that people were accurately able to guess the most positive ratings for all those leadership qualities accurately correlated with the people who were at the top of the Fortune 500 list. Just from their photo were able to tell how successful people are. I think this is incredible, right? We don't even think that, you know, what could a photo possibly tell? When they say a photo is worth a thousand words, I say a video is worth a million and person to person is priceless. Right? That's how much it can tell us. So what our face says in our social media pictures as well as in person, is how successful we are. And so I wanna show how that works. This is my fifth law of body language. So if you wanna go to laws of body language chart. Number five is the law of intuition. So this is that we have a natural ability to read nonverbal. We just have to hone it. So we know instinctively who is successful, just based on their picture. We just have to know how to hone that for ourselves and also when we're reading other people's faces. Let's talk about the microexpression. The microexpression is the basis. It's the foundation of understanding the face. A microexpression is a very brief, involuntary facial expression. It's what we make when we feel an intense emotion. Has anyone heard of the microexpression before? I'm curious. You've heard of that? So you mentioned Lie to Me. Yes! I think in that show they use that to figure out who's lying at all, right? All the time. So the microexpression was discovered by Dr. Paul Ekman And Lie to Me is based on Dr. Paul Ekman So they use the microexpression all the time. When we're talking about lie detection, the microexpression is a huge aspect of that. Because we're looking for when a face says one thing and words say another. So yes, absolutely. So, has anyone, have you guys watched Lie to Me? No? It's on Netflix, you should definitely watch it for free. It's a great way to practice. I will say, though, the first season of lie detection is very accurate on the science. Paul Ekman actually has a blog based on Lie to Me where he talks about the real science in the show. Season two is not so accurate. They changed writers. So just beware of that. The first season is much more accurate. So the reason why microexpressions are so important is because they're involuntary. They're also universal. So Dr. Paul Ekman. The reason he discovered facial expressions is he looked at tribes in Papua New Guinea. So he went to Papua New Guinea, he found a very very remote tribe. They had never seen television before, they had never been exposed to anyone outside their tribe. What he wanted to know was, even if these people have never seen faces outside their tribe, so they make the same facial expressions? So he showed them pictures of Americans making different facial expressions. And he had them look at the faces. And with a translator, they were able to name, correctly, the emotions they saw in the facial expressions. So even though they had never seen an American face before, they were able to say, oh that's anger. That's sadness. That's fear. This is a revolutionary concept. Cause we once believed that babies were born, looked at their mom or dad's face and then copied it. That's where we thought facial expressions come from. So what he did was, he said okay, so maybe these facial expressions are universal. Are they learned like that? Do we learn them somehow by mimicking? He looked at congenially blind children. So children who have been blind since birth. Even though those children have never seen a face before, they also make the same facial expressions as their parents, as everyone else. So that's how we know that these facial expressions are actually genetically coded in us. And I'm gonna explain why that happens for each facial expression in a second. So he discovered that there are seven universal facial expressions that correspond with the seven basic emotions. So what we're gonna be doing today is I'm gonna teach you those seven facial expressions. I need to have a moment of science for this amazing research because it truly changed the way we think about nonverbal. This discovery changes the way we think about lie detection, so we think about interacting with other humans, and it has been the basis of all the discoveries on how we read and interpret someone's emotions on their face. So it's just an amazing study. I'm grateful to Dr. Paul Ekman for doing it. One thing that I wanna show you before we go into the microexpression is something called the facial feedback hypothesis. The facial feedback hypothesis says that our facial expressions come from our emotions. So when we feel fear, we show an afraid face. But our emotions also come from our facial expressions. That means that if we make an afraid face, we actually begin to feel afraid. It's a very very interesting feedback loop. This is the scary part. They actually looked at women who have gotten Botox. Women who have gotten Botox injections into their wrinkles. And they found that women who have numbed their wrinkles actually feel emotions less intensely for those corresponding emotions. Wow, right? That is crazy. So women who have injected their smile lines with Botox so they don't have lines anymore, feel less happy. This is called the facial feedback hypothesis. It's how we feel emotions with our face. It is the basis of empathy. In society, scientists believe that we do this because if we're talking to someone and they make an angry face, we copy their angry face subconsciously. And then we begin to feel as they feel. They believe that that, this is the basis of how we are empathetic. How we make connections within a culture. Another interesting little aspect of the facial feedback hypothesis is we unconsciously mirror the faces we see. So I'm about to show you some very interesting facial expressions, and you will notice your own face start to pull into those facial expressions because we unconsciously mirror the expressions of those that we see around us. And this happens in three one hundredths of a second. That's so little. That's like nothing. So what they did was, these researchers, is they had people watch videos and they subliminally added a face very quickly. They didn't even register they saw it. And they noticed, they had their face hooked up to electrodes, people's facial muscles mimicked the face they saw, even though they're brain didn't realize they even saw a face. So our facial muscles do this without us even thinking about it. So that actually makes it easier for us to study microexpressions. So no your microexpression chart, we're gonna go through each expression and if you wanna write down the description of the facial expression, this will also help you remember what that facial expression is. So the first expression is fear. Fear is when we raise our eyebrows up our forehead and then we raise our lids up so the whites of our eyes show, and we typically pull our mouth back. Let me explain the reason why we do this. Why I think it's genetically coded that we make this face when we're afraid. So think about running. What's something that you're afraid of? List something. What's a fear that you're afraid of? Skydiving. Skydiving. Okay. If you're at the top of a plane, right? You're like about to jump out. And your adrenaline is pumping. You're brain wants to take in as much of the scene as possible to get a bearing in their surroundings. So your eyebrows get out of the way. Your eyelids get out of the way. So you can see as much as possible. Right? And then you're mouth opens so that you can go into fight or flight. You also wanna take in oxygen. If you're afraid, so this expression. Right, when you open your mouth like that. It forces you to take in oxygen. Because if you're in a fearful place, you have to be able to take in oxygen to know that if you have to go into that fight, or if you have to go into the flight mode. So from an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense. It actually keeps up alive. We're able to see any threat. If you are hiking and you see a snake on the trail. You're eyes instantly widen. Are there other snakes? And then you take in oxygen, cause you know that you have to either run, or try to fight. I don't know how you'd fight a snake. I wouldn't recommend that. Hopefully you would run. Your lips and mouth also open to yell. When we're afraid, we also may need to yell for help. And so opening our mouth also causes that reaction. So I'm gonna do the face for you now, so you can see how it works live and in person. So you raise your eyebrows up your forehead, you widen your eyelids, and you pull your mouth open and out. Right, that's how fear looks. And I see it, good. So what I want you to do is the asked you all to take out your smartphones. Does everyone have a smartphone? And at home, what I want you to do, is turn on your webcam, or you can also use your smartphone. Or you can get a mirror, whichever you want. If you could open the camera app for me, please. What I'm gonna have you do is make this face yourself and take a snapshot of when you feel like you've hit it. So using these pictures. And the reason for this is we are gonna build your own microexpression guide of how you face is when it's afraid. So hold open your phone, and I want you to raise your eyebrows up exactly, eyebrows up your head, eyelids up, and open your mouth. Very good. I love it. You guys all hit it. Perfect. Okay. When you've got it, that if your fear microexpression. There are two reasons why I'm having you do this. First, it makes it easier to remember the microexpression when you make it yourself. Right? When you actually make that fear microexpression, it helps you go, oh, right, it's lifting up the eyes. Second is I want you to have a guide of your own face making these microexpressions. For those of you at home, you can also try to think of a fearful experience. That will actually help you make the face. If you're having trouble hitting it, you can't quite get those eyebrows up there, think about something that makes you really afraid. That makes it a lot easier to raise those eyebrows up. Cause your body begins to go into that fight or flight. Don't do it for too long, I don't want you to be afraid of me. But that will help get you into it. Okay, so let's, has any questions on that fear? Are we good? All right, so we're gonna go on to expression number two. Anger. This is one you don't wanna see on clients faces. Let me tell you. Anger is when we pull our eyebrows down our forehead. So they're furrowed into that. You see those vertical lines between our forehead. In the middle of our forehead. Pull our eyebrows down. Usually our eyes kind of glare or bulge. They come out. And typically we press our mouth into a hard line or we open it to yell. An interesting little cue here is that people will often chin jut when they feel angry. So if you're ever in a bar and you see two men fighting, I always know when a bar fight is about to happen cause they'll look at each other and they'll go. Yeah. Yeah. And they jut their chin out. It's a territorial behavior. We do this when we're angry to say. This is my space. You know, leave it. You'll see gorillas make this face as well. And they even add on the fist bumping of the chest. We don't do that as humans, anymore, usually. But people do. That's part of the body language with anger. So I want you to think about something that makes you angry. Think about something that really like gets you going. And I want you to hold open your phone or your webcam and pull your eyebrows down your face until you see those vertical lines in between your forehead. Press your mouth into a hard line. And I wanna see the pictures. So. Jean Marie, that was pretty good. I saw it earlier. Yep. Yeah perfect. I love it. Sarah, that's good. Max, pull those eyebrows really down. Yeah, that's good. Yeah, perfect. So she, let me see you. You're laughing now. You're laughing now. You can show me. Did you turn it on? Did you get it yet? No, I'm kind of smiling. Okay so think of something that irritates you. Oh that's perfect Meg. That's perfect with those vertical lines. Yep, exactly. So think about, that's it, you got it. Right. So thinking about something that makes you angry actually helps you hit that face. Eman you want me to see yours? No. No? It does make you giggle a little bit. We have happiness coming up. I promise. So you can actually get a positive one in there. So let's talk about some of the times where you might see this. When do you think that you see anger in you're own life? When kids are about to have a tantrum. Right. Okay, so for parents. This is a really great one to recognize for parents because people often confuse anger with sadness. Parents especially do this. Because what happens is, they see their child going into an emotional state, and they think, oh they're upset. Upset is that kind of nebulous emotional term. We don't exactly know what it is. People often confuse this with that emotion. So it's very important to recognize those two vertical lines. That's the easiest way to recognize. That is anger. Right here in the middle of the forehead. So pull your eyebrows down. Okay. Any questions on, yes, Sarah? Can these microexpressions, anger especially, help you detect when people are being passive aggressive? Such a good question! Big thing in the pacific northwest, especially. So, yes. Actually this is not the predominant facial expression of passive aggressiveness. We're gonna learn that one I think it might be coming up, actually. That's contempt. Contempt is the facial expression of passive aggressive and sarcasm. Anger also can help you actually get to the right mood. So they had fighters. Wrestlers and fighters get into different facial expressions before they did a match. And they found that when fighters smiled before a match, they fought much less aggressively. Cause they're mind was in a happy state. However, when they made an angry facial expressions, they actually got the right aggressive testosterone hormones flowing. So it's interesting when you think about microexpressions. Anger is typically perceived as negative emotion. But actually it doesn't always work that way. You just wanna make sure that it honestly. So as a parent, or as someone in business, you always wanna make sure that you recognize the anger and you're not mistaking it for sadness. Any other questions? Yeah? If a client comes into a business meeting with anger, can you alter their, either their facial expression, or their intonation then just from the way that you talk to them? Yes. So there are two ways to dispel anger. If you see someone, either a client or a child. First if you use the rule of mimicking. Remember how we talked about facial feedback, how our faces mimic? Is you wanna make sure that you don't mimic their anger. So sometimes what happens, have you ever noticed that you meet someone, either a friend or a business colleague, and you kind of get in their mood, like they're in an angsty mood, and then all of sudden you're like kind of angsty as well? Part of that is because we are mimicking their face that's making us feel angsty like them. So the first thing is to make sure that you keep your face relaxed, right? And to actually go into the opposite of anger, which is either happiness or neutrality. So keeping your face neutral will help it not cycle. As a positive feedback loop. That's the first thing. The second thing you can do is go into rapport building behavior. So it's very very hard to stay angry when someone is trying to build rapport with you. Especially if they're genuinely trying to do it. So that would be, typically when we see anger, we speed things up. We're like, oh, they're upset, better get this over with. That's actually the worst thing you can do cause it doesn't give them a chance to decompress. They just had a really bad call from home, or something else is going on in their world. You actually want to give them the place to deescalate a little bit and to get calmer. So go into rapport building. What did you do this weekend? How's the family? How's everything going? You wanna go into those things. Happy topics. Cause that will help disengage that anger facial expression. That's a really good question. Yeah? So I work with a client, a lot of clients who aren't, I don't meet in person so we're email or phone. So how can you use these things with that? Or can you? Yes, you can. First of all, I always recommend Skyping, if possible. Google Hangouts and video calls. Cause you can very easily read my core expression on video calls. And it ups your game so much. When you can say, hey, you wanna have a video call? First of all, they often appreciate it. Because if they're dealing with a difficult issue, they wanna see you. It also helps you read them better so you do a better job. That's the first thing is video Skyping. Second is I highly recommend sending videos to clients for updates. People very very rarely do this, but it's actually a wonderful way to distinguish your service from other people. This can be if you're a photographer, if you're a developer, if you're working with clients one on one. What you do is, let's say they email you. Hey Jean Marie, I'm thinking about, you know, this is some of my issues. I'd love to work with you. Tell me about your process, about your rates. Probably a pretty standard email that you get. What's the typical first intro that you get, usually? Well, it depends on where they're coming from. I have them actually answer three questions for me if they want to reach out. That way I can get a sense of where their issues are. Oh, perfect. Yeah, so. And are those in like an email or a handout? Um, it's a form on my site. And when it comes to me it is an email. Perfect. So what you could do, if you have those three questions, cause they're the same for everyone, is you could actually film a video of you asking them those questions. Now they're gonna have them below. But it helps them feel like they're actually communicating with you. So you could have a video on that page that says, welcome, I wanna get to know you and your needs better. I have three questions below that I would love you to answer. Take your time. Send me as long of an answer as you want. Here they are. One, two, and three. That helps them get into a much more genuine space, cause they don't feel like they're writing to a form letter. They see you. And if you really have like a client that you're like, wow, this person would be a great fit for me. Film a 30 second video. Turn on your webcam and say, hey, I got your questions. Thank you so much for submitting those to me. I think that we would work really well together. I have this goal, this goal, and this goal for you. Email me back and let me know what you think. I've included my prices and how I like to work with you. That kind of, have you ever gotten a video like that from? Never. But could you imagine the impact it would have on a client? I encourage wedding photographers to do this as well. Because this is an, it's a very emotional moment. Especially women typically have heightened nerves. I got married two years ago, and I mean, I was like, I thought about every word in my email to those photographers. To see a video back of, I'm so happy you submitted those questions, let's get together for a meeting. It takes 30 seconds. You could easily upload it to Google Drive or YouTube and keep it on private. It really makes a difference. And that's how you can use microexpressions in your, with your client interactions really easily. Any other questions about? Thank you for that, that was good. Okay. So let's go on to the next microexpression. Happiness. We have a good one. This is a really good one to practice. I have a prop that I would like to hand out to everyone in the audience. So. There was a fascinating study that looked at the power of happiness. And what they did was, is they had people put pencils in their mouth. Uh, yeah, I can do it too. Sure, why not. Thank you, Ryan. All right, everyone got one? So they did this. They had people put pencils in their mouth. And you don't let your lips touch. Just like that, right? Perfect, okay. So, just stay like that. Okay. So the reason that they had them do this is because the only true indicator of happiness is when the upper cheek muscles are engaged. The only way, only one in ten people can consciously activate those muscles. You should start giggling soon. I'm seeing it. Very good. That is because this is the way that you consciously activate those cheek muscles. All right, good, perfect. You can take them out. Back at home you can try this. It feels so good. It feels so good. I know, it's great. Huh. It's like the adult pacifier. Those of you at home who need a little boost. This is what you can use. So what they looked at is the only true indicator of happiness is actually not the smile. It's when these upper cheek, the side of the eye muscles, are activated and lifted up, right? That upper lifting motion. Only one in ten people can consciously activate those muscles. So doing the pencil exercise at home, this is if you're not sharing your pen. You're welcome to put this in your mouth. You can feel those activate. They had people in the lab put the pencil in their mouth. And rate cartoons. They had them rate different cartoons. They had other people rate them with a furrowed brow. That anger brow that we learned. They pulled their eyebrows down and they had those lines. And they had them rate cartoons. Can you guess who rated the cartoons as funnier? Three times funnier. People who had the pencils in their mouth because their brain was telling them, you're happy. You're happy. It's a very weird thing that our facial muscles can do. How they can signify the brain. So women, especially, know the difference between happiness and fake happiness. If you've ever told another woman a piece of good news and she's like, oh yeah, I'm so happy for you. Yeah. And that smile just doesn't reach her eyes, right? We see that all the time. Our alarm bells go off when we see that inauthentic smile. And in business, this is hugely important. A body language myth I wanna bust is we are often taught, just smile! Just smile and it will make everyone better! It will make people like you. But if you have an inauthentic smile, you just come off as inauthentic. People can recognize the difference between the, oh yeah it's so great to meet you. Right? They can see that fake smile. So what I say is only smile when you mean it. Or if you really wanna get that fake smile, practice lifting those upper cheeks. That how you can actually begin to feel happier and hopefully that gets you in that right space. So, pull our your phones. We're gonna get this happiness. Now think of something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and really happy. Yeah. If you have trouble activating those cheeks, if you can't think of something really happy, you can put the pencil in your mouth. That's fine too. I love it. All right, what are you thinking of? I wanna hear something really happy and fuzzy. Broadway. Broadway! Puppies, anyone? Puppies and fuzzy things? Oh there we go, puppies. Yep, perfect. And you can try that at home if you can't get those upper cheeks done, that's how you do it. Sir, did you get it? I think so, yeah. What was your happiness? Um, just being here at Creative Live with you, Vanessa. Oh, you know how to win points with me, Sarah. And that was a real smile. Jean Marie, what did you think of? What was your happiness? Happy maker? They feed us so well here. I was like, lunch is coming. The food is so good. The food is so good, it's true. I hope at home you're making amazing lunch. I'm sure it's really good, too. Hey, Rena, what did you think of? I'm just having a fun time here. Oh, good. I promise we have a little bit of fun. The next expression isn't so fun, though. Okay so we're gonna get into my passive aggressive expression. Are we ready for the next one? Any questions from the chat rooms on that? I'm very interested to here this out. So this is from Shady K from Spain. Now she's saying, or he, I apologize, I'm very short sighted. So involuntarily, my eyes go into the anger position because I'm trying to see better. Could this influence my body language? Now I'm short sighted too, so I'm curious about this. Oh, okay, yes. So I'm so glad you noticed that. That that squinting, it's actually a partial microexpression of anger or suspicion. You'll notice that when people are like, I don't know about that. That's what they do. They go into that sort of squinting expression. It is a partial anger microexpression. Unfortunately, it can be an indicator to others that you are suspicious. Luckily because if you're not furrowing the brow, that isn't a huge indicator, right? Really the anger is when we pull our eyebrows down. So what I would say to you at home. If you have, if you often squinting, try to keep your eyebrows relaxed. So if you're squinting, if you have to, you can squint, but try to keep these relaxed cause that will help you not feel the anger. And be very open and vocal to this other people. So you can say, I'm so sorry, I'm having trouble reading that. Then they get, oh, right, that's not anger, that's not suspicion I'm seeing, it's that. So transparency is number one with that. Any other questions in the chat room? Yes. Read My Lips says in business, I find smiling can really kill a woman's power. Do you have any thoughts on this? Okay, so, women are taught from a very young age appeasement body language. They are taught to smile, they are taught to self touch, so self touch, self touch, self touch. And that is appeasing. It's very calming. Appeasement is another word for low power. So people who are in high positions of power smile less, and have less self touch. So you are right, Read My Lips. That in business situations, when you smile, you can kill your authority. You can kill your credibility. I know this sounds really crazy. But last year, my new years resolution was to smile less. And that is because I'm an appeasement smiler. I over smile when I'm nervous or when I'm with VIP. I'm like yes. Whatever you want, yes. And what does that remind you of? It reminds you of, like, someone who's submissive or a push over. Or willing to do anything. So smiling is, not smiling, can be a much higher power cue. But I also don't want you to not smile when you genuinely feel it. So that's why I say only smile when you authentically mean it. If you're in a business room and they make a joke, laugh. That's genuine. But don't smile because it's your nervous comfort blanket. That's what a lot of us do when we're nervous. Especially women. That's a really, really good question. Any other follow ups on that one? Yeah, related to that, yeah, what if we're feeling an emotion that is important that we had it? For business reasons or whatever it is. Can we be, or teach ourselves to be unreadable? So, microexpressions are involuntary. That is why they're so powerful. They usually happen in under a second. So they're very very brief. If you feel an expression that is not going to serve you very well, I would recommend trying to come up with answers that at least explain that emotion. So if you're feeling angry, but you're not supposed to be feeling angry, you can say, you know, sorry, this is just a hard topic for me to talk about, right? So you can acknowledge the expression as much as you can. It is impossible to squelch an expression. In fact, we're gonna see in a video later, what happens when we try to squelch a microexpression, squelching is when we like, mhm, we actually end up making a weirder face. You'll notice that when people are like angry but they're trying not to show the anger, they end up going, and they use asymmetry. So asymmetrical facial expressions is one of the cues of lying. Because it's what people do when they're trying to squelch it. So my advice to you is to try to explain it, try to embrace it, and if you can, avoid that topic. Because it's very very hard to block. That's why they're so powerful, though. It makes it easier to read. Any other questions? Let's talk more about happiness. Oh yeah. Sounds good to me. My next one you're not gonna like, though, so much. It's a little bit more serious. Okay, let's just do it. Contempt. Okay. So contempt. Hatred. Disdain. This is the most powerful microexpression. It is the most powerful microexpression. Contempt is very simply a one sided mouth raise. Looks kind of like a smirk. Right. So very easy to do it. Everyone can control this. The danger with contempt is that people often think it's happiness. They think, oh, I'm not very happy, but I'll kind of show this, yeah, great. And then pull up, as if it's a half smile. It is the absolute opposite of a half smile. So what's interesting is the body also will turn away. The body language queue with contempt is. People don't like something, they'll make this contempt microexpression and they'll turn their body back and it's called distancing behavior. It's what we do. We actually try to physically get away from something that we don't like. So let's practice this. Very quickly. So once, so think of something that really irritates you. Yep. Lift that one up. Pull out your phones or your webcams. I wanna see the faces. This is a real easy one. Think of something that makes you really kind of irritated. Yep, you got it. Max, perfect. Let me see your sheet. You're laughing! You can't laugh. I can't figure out something. Oh, perfect. You can't, it's hard. So think of something that really makes you irritated, that's the way to do it. What's scary about contempt is it is the physical expression of a very very deep and aggressive emotion. So I wanna talk about a follow up study with contempt. Dr. John Gottman is a marriage and family researcher up in Seattle. And he does the most amazing research on relationships. When he first started his career, one of the biggest questions he was trying to answer was why do couples get divorced? Why does that happen? And so what he did is he created this love lab. Where he brought couples of all different ages, all different races, into the lab, and he tested them on everything he could think of. He filmed them. He interviewed them. He interviewed their friends and family. He blood tested them. He urine tested them. He hormone tested them. He watched them for a weekend. He actually built, in his lab, a little B&B kind of getaway room, and he filmed them in that lab. He interviewed them on every possible topic you can think of. And he followed them for 20 years. And he kept interviewing them, interviewing their kids, interviewing their family members, to see what was the pattern. What was it that made couples get divorced? At the end of the 20 year experiment, he found that there was only one indicator of which couples got divorced and which couples stayed together. And it was that the couples show the contempt microexpression in the initial interview. Towards each other. So he's able to now watch a video of a couple, on silent, for 30 seconds. And tell you with 93.6% accuracy if they're going to get divorced in the next 10 years. Wow. Crazy. That is crazy. And he talks about, his books are fantastic. I highly recommend them. He talks about the reason why this is so insidious. And that he says that, if you have a couple where one member of the couple shows that one sided mouth lift, that contempt microexpression, they have feelings of hatred and disdain towards the other. It is very hard to get respect in a relationship where one person is showing hatred or disdain. And the ultimate success for a relationship is mutual respect. So that is why contempt is so incredibly powerful. In business, we're not talking about romance, here, thank goodness, that's a really hard topic. In business, when you see contempt, tread very carefully. This is where you wanna be like, okay, there's something going on here. And you have to make sure you understand the difference between them showing contempt towards you, and them showing contempt towards whatever they're talking about. Like if you're working with people on deeper emotional issues. Where you're at someone's wedding and they're showing contempt at a father in law, that's towards someone else, and you can say, how can I support you with this? Explain to me what's going on for you. What's going through your head? Where you can do exploratory extras with them. If it's directed towards you, that's when you wanna maybe take a step back and think very very carefully about working with them. Cause it's very very hard to get respect back once they've already entered into that contemptuous mindset. That makes sense? Yeah. Yeah, oh, sorry, Sarah. How do you tell the difference? Ah, it's very easy. When they show the contempt. So, and we're gonna watch this in a video, you'll actually see it live. So the way that, actually, is perfect. The way that I like to teach some of these signs is I explain the signs first, then we talk about theoretical examples, and then I show you real life examples, and then we practice. So I will show you a video of how that works in real life. Typically people will show the contempt right during what is making them contemptuous. So for example, meeting you and showing contempt like, oh yeah, nice to meet you. That's a little dangerous, right? They have that one sided mouth raise. Right when they're meeting you. But, if they were to say, uh, God, my father in law is being horrible. Right, that would be directed at that. Also, people tend to get self-contemptuous about things that make them embarrassed. So if you're working with people on deeper issues or costs that can be another area where you see contempt, they're contemptuous of the price and they can't afford it. Right, so you can also see that behavior as well. All you wanna do with contempt, we're gonna talk about how to deal with it later, is go into information gathering mode. That is the way you deal with contempt. You're trying to figure out what is the source of that contempt, how can I alleviate it, and what do we do next? That's what you do when you see contempt. We're gonna talk a little more about that when we're in the action steps later on today. Any other questions? Jean Marie, yeah. Well that actually answered a lot of it. My underlying question is, how often do you wanna examine the number of instances of contempt? Is it sort of over time? Like if it's someone you're working with or someone, a friend of yours? Yeah. So it's important. If you have someone who's constantly showing contempt, they have a lot of self hate, right? There's a lot of hate in there. That's when I'm like, I just know that that person has a lot of those issues and I tread carefully. I usually try to go into information gathering mode when I see it around a specific issue that I can actually deal with and that affects my ability to help them. And if that means multiple times in a conversation, that's okay, you know? And you can even say, I'm very transparent when I see an emotion on someone's face. I'll say, you look upset. That's very neutral. You look upset. Tell me what's happening for you? You look upset when you talk about this topic. Will you explain that to me? Usually people are actually so grateful that you even recognize they had an emotion on their face. It's an amazing way to build connection. It's a way that you're actually really hearing them. And you can do the same thing in video as well. You know by making sure that you're talking about topics that really make you feel good. Really make you feel confident. And then you can watch for this in your videos. So, Craig, the founder of Creative Live, he has a slight smirk in his picture. I don't think he realizes it, cause during a photo sessions, you're smiling every which way, right? They're like, smile this way, smile less, smile more. And so you end up going to these kind of half smiles cause you're a little tired. So look at your social media picture and make sure that you don't have that one sided mouth raised. It is all over Twitter. The contempt is all over Twitter. And I always am like, do I tell people that they're facial expression on their Twitter is contempt? Do I tell them? I don't know, you can help online. And I never know what to say to them because they don't realize they're showing it. They pick a picture they think is neutral. We, as a society, think contempt is neutral or fake happiness. So that's an interesting way to think about contempt for yourself and for your own social media and videos. As well as on others. Those are really good questions. Yeah. It's more of a comment and ask for help what to do. I often see, especially with the children, they're trying to mimic facial expression and I see this one side mouth smile. Not because of the contempt, because they think it's cool? Yeah. Or something. And sometimes I hard time breaks with that. And now what you're explain it, I realize where it may take if they used to this face expression. Right. So. You often see children make a lot of contempt if they have passive aggressive parents. That's a terrible thing to say. But, if they've seen that face on their parents, they think they're being adult by making that face. Right? If you have a parent who's like, oh, I hate getting up early for school. Which is like a totally legitimate thing, they think that's how mom or dad expresses. They use that face as a facial punctuator. And we're gonna learn what a facial punctuator is. A facial punctuator is when people hold a microexpression so it's not an expression that comes from their actual feeling. They do cause they think that's what they should do. Like in photographs. So children will sometimes pick up on a parents natural contemptuous microexpression and then make it and mimic it. So what you can do to get kids out of it, or anyone out of it, is to first make sure you don't mimic it, right? Cause that only perpetuates the cycle. Second go into information gathering mode, or you wanna get them to laugh. Kids especially, you can joke with them, they instantly pull into that full smile. But that's why those funny jokes or being silly, especially on photo shoots. Do you mostly work with kids on photo shoots? Or is this another area? No, not necessarily on a photo shoot. Just seeing the kids like. Look what they did. Like. I build this Lego and the kids think that he's cool he is making this facial expression. Though there's nothing in the situation to be contempt and from what he's showing, he's telling me, he's actually very proud, he's showing me what he did. Right, so in that situation. So it's a total mismatch of facial and actual. He's doing it cause he thinks it's cool, right? He thinks he's being like self deprecating. That's what he thinks he's doing. So then what you can do is immediately going into praise behavior. Make them feel proud. So you can be like, wow, you built this? You must feel so proud. That will tell them to switch on, oh, it is okay to feel good. And actually that's better. So you wanna reward that genuine proud behavior as opposed to saying, you know, that sort of half, like oh yeah, it's great. That would be rewarding that contemptuous, it's not a big deal microexpression. So going into praise helps them flip out of it. As parents, especially. But again, kids don't do it unless they've seen teachers or parents do it. That's when they mimic that expression as a punctuator. Yeah. Does confusion fall into a microexpression? Or misunderstanding? Okay, so confusion often shows on the face as either anger, cause people are angry at themselves for not getting it, right? So they're like, I don't get it. They like shake their, I don't get it. That's cause they're angry at themselves for not getting it. It's usually impatience. Sometimes you also see that as contempt. If people are like, uh, I don't get it. That's like a deeper self shame. I'm confused. And it also could be, they could show contempt with confusion if they're upset with you for putting them in a situation where they're confused. So if you see that with a client, especially if you deal with technical things, whenever I'm talking to entrepreneurs about like apps, sometimes you'll see contempt cause people feel that towards technology. Or they don't understand it. And so you can say, let me take you through this step by step. Let me go with, okay, I can see you're a little bit confused. No problem, this makes everyone confused. So you go into social proof. Everyone feels confused about this. So she, I saw you were like, ah. I just remembered I can use it somewhere. Oh good! Or I could have used it somewhere. I like that ah-hah moment. That's perfect. That's a really great question is how do you identify some social proof, or information gathering is the way. Any questions from social media? Got lots of questions. And some of them are very pertinent to what you've just been saying. Because people now are asking about their business portraits and their resume photos, etc. What would be the ideal facial expression to show yourself as a hireable and confident professional? And that comes from J Corrasto. Perfect. Okay, genuine happiness if you want neutrality. Those are really two you should be showing on resume picture or social media pictures. I know that women love duck lips, right? You can do that, that's okay, that's not one of the seven universal microexpressions. So genuine happiness. So if you are taking photos with your friends, or you have a photo shoot, while you're taking the photos, think about what makes you genuinely happy. I actually recommend bringing a pencil if you forget. You know, at the end of a good photo session, these should be exhausted. Right? They should be so tired cause you're engaged in them. So that's a way that you can get the genuine facial expression. Neutral is also okay. That's, you know, I sometimes see people who just have a contemplative face. Neutral is neutral. That is fine too. Especially if you have a very serious line of work. And you want the content to speak for itself, and happiness is not appropriate, a lot of politicians will sometimes have more neutral faces. The worst is those fake happiness. That's when something is like, ugh, he was forced to do that in that picture. So either genuine happiness or neutrality. I mean please do take a look at those resume pictures. Please please please. And we're gonna talk about the body language in those pictures later. So we're gonna talk about how to show power with body language. The biggest thing I see in resumes is people do this. In they're resume photo. They cross their arms. We're gonna talk about how that's a big no no later and what you can do instead that makes it better. Yeah? Lazarus wanted to know if the smirk, I think the contempt emotion, if that can be interpreted in different ways depending on region. He says that he's from New York City, and that sometimes that facial expression to him means more of like a, I don't know if I'm buying it. Not necessarily a contempt kind of feeling. Well I don't know if I'm buying it could kind od be contempt. Cause you're like, I don't know if I can trust this person or not. These are universal facial expressions. So across cultures, across cities, contempt always means that. Disbelief can be an aspect of contempt. Right? That criticism or disbelief can be an aspect of, I don't know about this person. So that could be a mild form of contempt. But very careful if that's how you judge people. That's the expression that you go into when you're judging people. It can look very very harsh. So if you find yourself making that expression, you wanna try and tone it down. You can control it by, you find yourself out of habit going into it. And this doesn't happen for everyone, but I've seen it a couple of times where you're just so used to doing it. And relaxing both sides of your face. So yeah that's a good question. Two very related questions that just came in at the same time here, NP and another one from Valerie ISS. NP is saying, could you, Vanessa, address those micro facial expressions when one side of their face is weaker than the other side? And Valerie is saying yes, I have paralysis on the half of my face and does that affect things? Okay, so asymmetry, if you have weaker facial muscles, or sometimes also people with brain damage also can have asymmetry. I think it's very important to be very transparent about this. Especially in, if you're in a relationship with someone that lasts a little bit longer than a networking event, I actually address it right away. In social media profile pictures, it's usually pretty easy to either have a neutral face, or to show half of the face. The good thing is, if if you have a facial weakness, you feel the emotion the same as everyone. Because your muscles are activating on high as much as they can. So in terms of your feelings, it is totally totally fine. So the last thing that I wanna do before we move on, is I want to encourage you during this next little period to test your body language skills. So I've just taught you the first four microexpressions. After we take this quiz, I'm gonna teach you the last three. I want you to test yourself. On this quiz, it's for free, See if you can recognize the facial expressions we just learned. I'm also gonna ask you a couple of body language expressions to see how your skills rate. Remember earlier I asked you to rate your own body language abilities, with this quiz you'll be able to see how good can you do and how quickly can you spot those microexpressions that we just learned.

Class Description

How strong is your first impression? In this course, body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards explains how to use non-verbal communication to become the most memorable person in any room.

Vanessa will show you how to:

  • Read people by gauging their visual cues
  • Use body language to your advantage in meetings
  • How to tell if people are lying.
  • Voice modulation so you can impress clients in phone conversations
  • "Statement Analysis" to help you write powerful emails, website copy, and business cards 
This Power of Body Language course will positively affect every part of your professional life.  By the end of the course, you'll be able to identify exactly what impression your verbal and nonverbal language is giving, and how to increase it.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Baseline Coding System Chart

Lying Red Flags

Positive Trait List

The Nonverbal Elevator Pitch

Laws of Body Language Answer Key

The Nonverbal Sales Pitch

Trivia Answer Key

Citation List

Elevator PItch Clinic

Laws of Body Language Worksheet

Self Diagnosis Chart


Body Language - Trivia

The Microexpression Chart

30 Day Action Plan.pdf

Action Steps and Homework


Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


R. P. Getz

I loved this course! I've learned so much and Vanessa did a terrific job making it easy and fun. I loved learning that by paying more attention to body language, I'm becoming a better listener (and picking up on stuff I never caught before). ;) I recommend the class highly to anyone and everyone as all can benefit from being more aware of others and yourself!! My hard earned education $$ well spent here. :) Cheers to Vanessa Van Edwards and Creative Live!


This was an absolutely fantastic course, it would be a huge understatement to say this course was worth the money. Vanessa provided tremendously accessible, highly actionable training useful for both social and professional environments. I couldn't recommend this course highly enough, and am heading now to purchase her next one! Thanks so much Vanessa and Creative Live, this is the course I've been hoping to find for years.

susan kinnel

I just found myself applauding in my bedroom as this program was wrapped up, Vanessa is fabulous! This was money well spent, loved every moment of it! I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information, and soon felt blown away by how many micro expressions I could spot during the clips she showed. I was so impressed with how easy it was to pick this info up due to Vanessa's enthusiastic delivery. YAY vanessa!