Often we think we’re quite successful at dissembling when the truth is that we’re not fooling anybody. Paul Ekman, the world’s foremost expert on emotional expression and author of 14 books, including Emotions Revealed, maintains that some emotions are almost impossible to fake. A genuine smile is one example of an emotion we can’t fake. A fake smile most often reveals itself by not involving those eye muscles. And those eye muscles will not easily obey the will. In other words, a genuine smile comes from the heart, not the brain. If you try to smile while not being your true self in the moment, others will know it. “Unlike body language,” Canadian researcher Stephen Porter told The Week in May 2008, “you can’t monitor or completely control what’s going on in your face.” In short, phonies who try to please by smiling are not fooling those around them.
Don’t even try to fake a smile. You can’t fake a genuine smile, so don’t try it. Instead, let the smile come from your feeling of judgment-free awareness and genuine support.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, describes this ability to see the true emotions despite attempts at dissembling. We do it so automatically and unconsciously that we feel as though we’re reading others’ minds. Actually, writes Gladwell, “there is enough accessible information in a face to make everyday mind reading possible. When someone tells us ‘I love you,’ we look immediately and directly at him or her because by looking at the face, we can know…about whether the sentiment is genuine.”
By being your real self in the workplace, you don’t have to worry about dissembling. The more you can share how you really feel-appropriately, of course-the more genuine you come across. Not all of us are equal when it comes to reading others’ emotions. How good we are has a lot to do with our early experience. Even as children, some of us are more expert at reading others’ emotions. Those who are better at it are more liked by their peers and teachers. And they also tend to treat others better as well.
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