I once coached a vibrant young woman who had been in Brazilian TV beer commercials. She had an infectious smile – perfect for the ad. When she came for coaching, however, she had moved to a senior leadership position where the smile created some dilemmas. Her face was incongruent with the more serious information she delivered. “You can’t smile giving bad news” she was told. People said they wondered how she “really” felt. She learned about the importance of variability in facial expression, and mostly, authenticity. She worked on this, and found more range and truth in her expression over time.
This high performing woman gained a major key to communication skills and the impression she made on others. In High Performing Woman (Part One) we learned everyone has what it takes to improve their communication style. Now let’s add to the repertoire. This brings us to the third suggestion…
“Put on your game face.” The face is, above all else, at the top of the hierarchy of things we observe in others. Accurate or not, we make judgements and have strong opinions based on our perceptions of another’s facial expression. The human face is the most complex of all species, with tens of thousands of expressions possible, and thousands which are universally and cross-culturally recognizable. When you put on your game face, you immediately convey such things as confidence, the gravity (seriousness) of what you say, your focus (especially with the eyes) and your intentions. Our faces are like the emoticons we use in social media to broadcast our status. If the face is incongruent with our words, there is confusion and even erosion of trust in the listener.
A benefit of your own clarity is the ability to read others. Once you become aware of your feeling, intention and expression, you can begin to measure another’s authenticity. Do their words match their facial expression? What is their body language telling you? This awareness gives you a distinct advantage in important and or difficult conversations.
In closing, try this experiment: Make a fake smile. Exaggerate it. Notice that the movement is mostly made by your mouth. Now think of something or someone that really makes you happy. The inner smile blossoms on your face. You notice your eyes are more involved, your energy is engaged and your whole body is helping to broadcast your thoughts. You are authentic, relaxed and focused. Now, that’s a true game face!
Alice Rutkowski is Vice President of Executive Development for SAGIN, LLC. Alice has worked with executives in the Fortune 500, Television, Radio and political leaders. Alice has over 35 years of experience working with leaders to develop their communication style. To learn more about SAGIN’s and Alice’s work in Executive Development and Diversity, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit SAGIN, LLC at: www.saginllc.com. You can also see Alice’s work at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id0vndo3zjM