Facial expressions are a very important part of communication.
Though nothing is said verbally, there is much to be understood about the messages we send and receive through the use of nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions.
The Communication Process
Communication involves both verbal, or spoken, and nonverbal, or unspoken, ways of making sure our message is heard. When communicating nonverbally with others, we often use facial expressions, which are subtle signals of the larger communication process.
A simple smile can indicate our approval of a message, while a scowl might signal displeasure or disagreement. Understanding facial expressions and their meaning is an important part of communication.Communication involves two or more people exchanging verbal and nonverbal cues to reach a point of shared understanding. The communication process involves both a sender, who is sending a message, and a receiver, who is hearing and/or seeing the message.This process can be complicated by many factors, such as parties who are trying to communicate while speaking different languages.
Additionally, we both send and receive messages through personal screens, like experience, faith, values, cultural background, gender, and education, which can make it more difficult to understand one another. Often, these screens lead us to make assumptions about the message being communicated. We also might make assumptions by observing, analyzing, and assigning meaning to the facial expressions of others.
In today’s business world, much of our communication takes place via electronic methods, like email and text messages. Oftentimes, it’s hard to understand the context or meaning behind a message that’s received electronically. But in person, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues boost our understanding.
Facial expressions include smiling, frowning, eye rolling, making eye contact, scowling, and appearing bored or interested. Other facial expressions might indicate excitement or even shock, like opening one’s eyes or mouth widely. Winking could signal that we’re joking about a remark we made, or even flirting with the person to whom we are speaking! And raising our eyebrows might communicate that we’re surprised or that we don’t believe what we’re hearing.The interpretations assigned to facial expressions vary greatly, so we need to be careful when using them.
Many of our expressions are ones we’re accustomed to from our own cultural, familial, and business backgrounds and experiences. Because we understand facial expressions differently, we can easily misunderstand the intent behind such nonverbal cues.Eye contact is an example of a facial expression that can easily be misunderstood. Different cultures assign different meanings to eye contact.
In America, a moderate level is expected in business dealings, while in other countries, such as Libya, eye contact between men and women is considered impolite.
There are both positives and negatives to assigning meaning to the facial expressions of others. For example, Sally might interpret Dan’s scowl as being related to the report she’s giving on this month’s sales figures. But Dan might have recently suffered an injury and simply feel uncomfortable sitting at the conference table. It’s important for Sally to refrain from assigning meaning to Dan’s expressions too quickly. But it’s also important for Dan to be aware of the facial expressions he’s making while listening to Sally’s message.On the positive side, consider this example.
Jane smiles at Tom while she’s reviewing his work on a recent project. While she’s providing positive feedback verbally, she’s reinforcing her pleasure with Tom by adding a facial expression – her smile.
Communication combines verbal, or spoken, and nonverbal, or unspoken, actions. Facial expressions are one form of nonverbal communication. These subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – expressions can communicate everything from pleasure or displeasure to surprise or boredom.In the business world in particular, we must carefully monitor our facial expressions because we never know how others might interpret them. While we may have become accustomed to our own expressions based on our culture, family and other aspects, others could easily misunderstand the intent behind such nonverbal cues based on their personal background and experiences.
When the lesson draws to its conclusion, you may pursue these goals:
- Describe the communication process and identify its components
- Outline the importance of facial expressions
- Determine why it is important to use facial expressions carefully