We all recognize the importance of first impressions and their potential impact on future outcomes. Certainly, from a business perspective, first impressions can either positively or negatively influence our 'success quotient' so therefore, we routinely pay closer attention to things such as clothing and personal hygiene. Yet, one significant characteristic we often fail to include on our 'first impression checklist' is our facial expression. And, regardless of what it is we're selling, buyers can intuitively pick up on our vibes – whether we realize we're displaying visual cues or not.
I Know How You Feel
While at the ASTD International Conference and Exposition in Dallas last month, I attended a unique and fascinating sales enablement training session unlike any I've experienced. Specifically, this particular session addressed facial expressions as they relate to business development and sales effectiveness. The presenter, Paul Ekman, an American psychologist and world-renowned facial expression expert, explained how our subconscious minds regularly ‘emit’ our personal emotions through distinct facial expressions. According to Dr. Ekman, whose research and theories also inspired the TV crime drama Lie To Me, there are seven emotions with subsequent facial expressions universal to all humans: These seven emotions are:
Consequently, depending on the circumstances, facial expressions can contribute (and not in a good way) to the overall, face-to-face, first impression equation. Who knew?
Maybe I Should Learn To Play Poker
After all, many lucrative poker players are skilled masters of the 'uninterpretable facial expression.' In the meantime, like most other professionals, I strive to maintain a pleasant, upbeat, and confident decorum in all business-like settings. Little did I know that my face might have other plans. The truth is, sometimes it's difficult to conceal or camouflage on the outside whatever might be troubling us on the inside. So, whether we're networking with people we've never met before, or making presentations to potential clients, our facial expressions can reveal more than we know. Or desire. Something to keep in mind the next time we head out the door – and head into our next meeting. That said, the concept of first impressions is definitely more complex than I previously imagined. Plus, now I have one more thing to remember. Just what I need.