While most of us were taught growing up that working hard, being nice and learning
some skill or knowledge were the keys to a satisfying life, we were never really
told how likeability, above all else, is the determining factor. In fact, our
family, teachers and friends may not have known how essential it is.
Yet, if you dislike someone, you may resist their help or advice, even to your
detriment. You may literally shut down around them as you reduce your peripheral
vision and ability to hear in instinctive resistance to them. On the other hand,
if you like someone you will go out of your way to help them, even unasked and
even when it may be to your detriment. Among public figures, for example, consider
how the different charms of presidents Meagan and Clinton have smoothed to way
for each , even over the bumps of their mistakes or unpopular decisions.
Simply put, getting along is essential to living among others. Getting along
very well, is the key to having more opportunity, adventure, gifts, success
and love in your life. Why didn’t anybody expressly tell us that? Because
few people know how, except, perhaps by example. To begin to learn about likeability,
we must with the center of most communication, the face. After all, what would
life be like without the raised eyebrow, wrinkled nose or flared nostrils? Here’s
some highlights of the research on how to recognize emotions earlier in others
and in yourself so you can adjust your verbal and non-verbal communication toward
better mutual understanding.
Researchers, Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen have found that there are biologically
universally expressed emotions. That is, whether you are in New York or New
Dehli, you can know that the same expression means the same thing for love (interest/excitement),
fear, anger, hurt, disgust, shame and surprise.
We are wired to feel in ourselves and respond to in others the emotions of
fear and anger faster than any other. This is out of our instinct to survive.
The most frequently experienced positive emotion is, of course, interest-excitement,
usually expressed on the face by wide eyes and a slightly open mouth provides
much of the motivation for learning. Joy is the most desired emotion. Together
with interest, it guarantees that human beings will be social creatures. The
smile of one person elicits the smile of another. A beaming face expresses an
active state of joy and is characterized by a sense of confidence. The more
you and those around you are in these variations of positive states, the more
effortless and happy your life will be.
Therefore, instead of attempting to accomplish something (content) when they
are in one of the other, less positive states (feeling) seek a way to move them
towards well-being before returning to “content.” You have not been
trained to take the time to do this. Just know that nothing you “accomplish”
with others while you and or the other person(s) are in an unhappy state will
stick: an agreement, new understanding, anything, unless there is continued
coersion. Then the retaliation will just be delayed.
Following are descriptions of how the other emotions are expressed in the face.
I describe them because, as we get older and more “educated” we become
more removed from awareness of our own feelings in the moment, and of what we
may be projecting to others, and less observant of what others are signaling
to us in their faces. We have numbed out. The sooner we notice what we or others
are feeling and expressing, the more options we have to change, and change others,
before feelings become hardened into permanent beliefs about each other. For
example, people who are frequently stressed in their life, lose the capacity
to recognize it when it appears. Since an early sign of stress is lowering of
skin temperature, we are teaching some harried executives to feel the top of
their hand in meeting, to see if it has become cooler, so they recognize the
increased stress earlier and thus have a better chance of reducing the stress
by making a change sooner.
Surprise is a reaction that is novel, unexpected, and sudden and is accompanied
by raising the upper eyelid and dropping the jaw. It also helps you clear your
nervous system so that you can respond appropriately to the sudden change you
Distress or sadness indicates that one is discouraged and downhearted. Sadness
serves the highly useful function of communicating to others, as well as to
yourself that that all is not well.
Anger is intended to disturb and frighten. Often it results from physical or
psychological restraint or from interference with goal-oriented activity. Anger
can cause you be destructive, but it can also energize you to have the strength
and courage to change.
Disgust is elicited by anything spoiled and may have originally been a signal
to the group or community of this fact. Disgust can literally make one feel
Contempt is the “cold” emotion that is the next step of extremity
from disgust. It depersonalizes the individual or group you hold in contempt.
It most removes you from empathy and connection. When you feel contempt from
someone else you will probably never trust or like them again, and may feel
a prolonged desire for revenge.
Fear is an emotion that affects every individual in a deep, profound and long-term
way. It motivates the avoidance of danger situations and is characterized by
raising the upper eyelids and tightening the lower lids and by a horizontal
stretching of the lip. It is actually possible to be frightened to death. An
expression of fear suggests an impending disaster. Once felt, such as in war
or a traumatic accident, any situations that are remotely similar to the one
where you experienced fear -- even a movie -- will evoke a renewed fear response.
Sounds and smells are the most directly emotional reminders of that fearful
What do we do to connect with others? The same, most crucial skill to be likable.
It is also our first instinct: to smile.
A smile is the most universal expression of friendliness and approval. We smile
in several ways. For example, the “social smile” which is unique to
humans, is a way of acknowledging others, even if we do not feel warm to them.
We are being polite. It says “I am not aggressive.” or “Excuse
me.” By contrast, a “true” smile, with heightened eyebrows, reflects
genuine joy or fondness. Ironically, most people know how to put on their social
smile but less than three percent of the American population knows what, for
them, is their true smile.
If someone who is familiar with you will take the time and has the talent
to observe you closely, you may ask them to literally show you, mimicking back,
what your true smile of joy looks like. By six months, most infants can tell
the difference between the posed “social smile” and the genuine one,
and clearly prefer the later. Some people also have what is called a “body
smile”, that is their entire body has a friendly quality to it, not just
when they are “on” but as they are walking through the candid moments
of their life.
Our eyes are the second most powerful indicators of emotion. For most primates,
the duration of a gaze indicates the hierarchy of the situation. The more submissive
looks away or down first. Because we have whites in our eyes, unlike other primates,
we more obviously signal gaze direction and thus can shift attention of others.
Most people talk, with a mutual gaze, then periodically break eye contact, not
understanding that the length of the gaze is an indicator of attentiveness.
If two people look into each other’s eyes for more than six seconds they
are probably either going to kill each other or make love. We call the latter
Eyebrow movement signals mood change for displaying the emotions of surprise,
sadness, fear and anger. Anger involves lowered brows that are drawn together
combined with tightened, lowered eyelids and pressed lips. Surprise involves
widened eyes and raised eyebrows.
The mouth also signals emotion. As we grow older the lips increasingly reflect
the emotional state that has dominated our lives. The corners of the mouth are
drawn back in fear and pushed forward in anger. When sexually aroused, lips
become swollen and darker.
Opening the mouth is a universal sign of curiosity, such as when you are listening.
Cheeks communicate emotional changes such as the blush of shame or embarrassment
and heated in anger except for a truly aggressive person where the cheeks become
pale as the blood drains away from the skin in preparation for immediate physical
action. Similarly, if one is scared, the cheeks will blanch, as the body prepares
to meet the challenge.
While less expressive than other facial features, the nose signals disgust
when it wrinkles and flares in anger and fear.
We are irrevocably bonded to each other by our instinctive facial responses.
A smile triggers other smiles. A sad or unhappy face tends to make others look
sad and unhappy. A face with dilated pupils will attract more people than one
that is not.
As you become more familiar with facial signals as early warning signs, you
can often anticipate when conflict is looming and literally face it down with
your increased warmth. For example, you might widen your eyes, thus raising
your eyebrows, soften your lips and avoid prolonged, direct stares. Its a start,