Would you be better off if you could accurately read the faces of your customers, clients, even bosses and associates? The answer is obvious. The more easily you can read others’ emotions, the more comfortable you’ll be with your own authentic feelings. Reading others’ faces more accurately allows you to gauge what feelings are appropriate to share in any given setting, whether it involves selling, managing others, or working as a team. Remember, it is not being authentic with your feelings regardless of the context. Rather, it is being sensitive to the context and then choosing how to share your authentic feelings sensibly and appropriately. That fine distinction makes all the difference.
Are You a Fake?
Let’s look at some research on emotional communication. Charles Darwin focused on two basic emotions when he studied animals across the board – smiling approval and frowning disapproval. More recently, scientists have some up with about a half-dozen basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise. Some emotions, such as a smile indicating happiness, can be and often is faked in the effort to provide a social lubricant when things get tense, or even as a polite demeanor in the absence of any true emotion. In the false smile, the eye areas are not engaged; the smile is less symmetrical and may disappear suddenly. But many of us may miss the difference since it is so subtle in appearance.
Having the ability to connect with others will help us to distinguish between the authentic and the faked smile. How? By being more in touch with our feelings on a moment-to-moment basis. Aware of our gut feelings, we can “feel” that the faked smile is what it is – inauthentic. A fake smile only works for those who are not in touch with their feelings. The “faker” may think he’s getting away with something.
It’s Easier to Tell the Truth
Anyone with access to the workings of the brain, however, would see a significant difference. When deception takes place, different parts of the brain are activated. Lying is an effortful process involving much activity in the thinking prefrontal cortex but also emotional activity in the limbic system, much more so than someone being truthful about something, who doesn’t have to work so hard at keeping in mind two sets of data – the truth and the lie. When lying takes place, says Scott H. Faro, director of Temple University’s Functional Brain Imaging Center, in an article from Nature.com, “there is not just one center in the brain. Multiple areas are interacting. There’s more activity and more interactions that occur during a lie than in truth telling.”
In a later blog we will consider more ways to read the faces of business.
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