Whenever someone came up to my desk to ask me something, I automatically put a smile on my face to greet them.  I had learnt over the years that apparently I look miserable if I’m not smiling!  And it came as a shock to people when I wasn’t smiling!  More recently I’ve learnt there is a phrase for that in that I apparently have a “bitchy resting face”!!!  Nice! 🙂

But unfortunately it’s true!  I had thought that I was just being encouraging, but actually I was also helping others feel better about approaching me for a completely different reason.

This is a useful part of self-awareness, or emotional intelligence – knowing how you could be affecting others, even unconsciously.

I also knew someone who never smiled at those approaching him and he genuinely couldn’t understand why he had a reputation for being cross and scary, and no-one wanted to ask him anything or even approach his desk.  However, as well as not smiling, his pupils always appeared small – and most of us are aware that we unconsciously notice when pupils are larger as a sign that a person likes us.  So, like me and my “face” he had a “look” that was giving the wrong impression of him.

Ever considered what your expressions could be conveying?   Another example could be if we are annoyed at someone in a previous meeting/phone call etc, and whether that annoyance is showing on our face when we speak to the next person we meet.  Could the person on the receiving end then be interpreting it as you being annoyed with them personally?  So, it might be worth first thinking about what you are unconsciously conveying by your mannerisms, expressions etc.

Additionally, with that in mind, it’s important to consider your emotional state from one meeting to the next.  Not only could you be sending the wrong messages, but you could also be colouring your own thoughts eg. If you are angry (even about something completely different) you yourself could mistakenly interpret anger in other people and be inviting confrontation.  Alternatively, when someone genuinely smiles, you can feel that positively (and it’s widely reported that you can also hear it in someone’s voice on the phone).

So, there are two things I’d consider here.  One is that when someone else looks angry, sad etc, question yourself as to whether that really is in response to you, or it could be something else that they are dealing with.  Think about what are you feeling in response to their expressions and question yourself about the validity.  Secondly, bear in mind what your expressions and emotions could be signalling to others.

Having that self awareness as part of emotional intelligence could really help your leadership and communication skills.  You may need to consciously alter your facial expressions and posture in a given situation.  And, if you’re like me …… keep smiling!


If you’re interested in finding out more about self-awareness and emotional intelligence in the workplace, then please contact us to discuss how executive coaching can help.

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