What is the role of our facial expressions?
We have two groups of facial expressions Conversational signals that emphasises what we are trying to convey. These expressions breaks down into
- Illustrators – portray emphasis
- Emblems – share communication without the word such as a wink or eye roll
- Manipulators – such as biting lip when nervous or bowing head in shame
Next Emotional Signals that convey our feelings, like the original emoji who’d have guessed it! Classified even further into
- Subtle – contained to one part of the face such as a sneer or eyebrow raise, trying to cover a strong emotion
- Micro – a flash of emotion suppressed either consciously or unconsciously
- Macro – genuine and fabricated.
- fabricated can be False & Masked
False expressions are those that we use when we are not truly feeling that emotion for example when acting or using sarcasm… shocker!
Masked expressions are those we use to cover up how we are truly feeling for example to not show other we are disappointed or to not hurt others.
Your facial expressions say a lot
As we get older we learn to put a brave face on, wear a mask. When parenting we pretend we are cross because we are putting down a extremely important boundary, though really we want to giggle. More often than not it’s the feelings we view as negative that we want to hide. If we do this too often and it can become unconscious we are no longer aligned with our true feeling. Our faces don’t match. Children can sense the discourse but they don’t know what it is they are sensing, other than something does not feel right or add up. They have lost their role model, the person they can trust.
Having spend hundreds of hours practicing facial expressions with children that have missed out on incidental learning or young people who are neuro-diverse, it always amazed me how difficult this can actually be to break down our facial expressions with our emotions. I remember my toddler aged only two putting a hand either side of my face and looking at me very seriously and asking “what do your eyes say?” obviously I had been caught out! What I was communicating to him was not matching. He checks out a lot especially if we have had a wobble.. “are you happy? sad or worried?” he often catches me off guard, calling out my mask.
Can you be a emotional literate intelligent role model for your child?
Take a moment and ask yourself
- How do you feel?
- How do you truly feel about the situation?
- Does this match with what you think you should be portraying?
- Is your face/body reflecting your true feelings?
- What if presenting how you truly felt made you feel better?
- What if your relationships strengthened with your honesty?
Give yourself permission to be authentic with your child without making them responsible for you. You are letting them know they can be authentic with you. Maybe its time we all got back to practicing in the mirror our happy, sad, melancholy faces. Because would it not be easier if the labels matched the contents.