If you’re using video conferencing in your job, being able to read facial expressions and body language can be highly useful. As is being aware of the signals you may be sending.
On high definition video, facial expressions that used to be reserved for face-to-face meetings become visible – scientists call them macro- and microexpressions - and they are universal around the globe, regardless of cultural background.
According to David Matsumoto, Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, macroexpressions are relatively easy to spot, involve the entire face and last up to 4 seconds. They cover the seven basic emotions (anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise) and are fairly easy to read – and to control. We all know what an angry face looks like – and how to not show it!
Microexpressions on the other hand only last fractions of a second and are likely signs of concealed or rapidly processed emotions. They happen so fast that most people wouldn’t be able to spot them in real time.
Professor Matsumoto concludes that learning to read facial expressions, especially microexpressions, supports the development of rapport, trust, and collegiality; they can help assessing credibility, evaluate truthfulness and detect deception. Better information about emotional states provides the basis for better cooperation, negotiation, or sales.
The daily interaction with others (face-to-face or on video) helps hone these skills and an awareness of small non-verbal signs will allow you to learn over time to “read faces”. Building more face-to-face contact in your professional communications gives you room to learn, interpret and be more savvy about the way you interact with customers, colleagues and partners.
To practise, start with the people you know and ensure you get plenty of “face time” with colleagues - regardless of where they are. That means getting away from your computer and having a chat instead of a phone call across the office, or having a quick web conferencing meeting with video instead of chain e-mail.
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