The old song rings downright positive, “Smile and the whole world smiles with you.” Our pre-scientific forebears recognize the power of facial expressions and other body languages in human communications and interactions. Based on their gut feeling and experience, they saw that a person’s facial expressions and body language not only make communication more effective they also make humans better communicators.
Consider this proverb in the Bible, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This concise, yet very instructive proverb can make build friends and create peace among people. So, imagine how much power you could wield if you combine gentle words with humble facial expressions. Indeed, the possibilities are limitless.
The classical understanding of communication suggest that people communicate to convey ideas from one person, which is the sender, to another, which is the receiver. The goal is to create an unified understanding of a thing. The process of exchanges between the sender and receiver is explained by various theories. Most of these theories highlight the positive sides, while a few focuses on the negative side of communication, which is as a source of power and oppression.
The advent of modern societies ushered a new mode of communication called mass media. And here the speaker’s facial expression and body language are often more powerful that the words the speaker used. One could cite the tragedy of Germany during the reign of Adolf Hitler, who came to power easily by his supreme mastery of public speaking where his facial expressions and heavily gesticulations have moved the German people to blindly follow him.
A study suggests that facial expressions do more than inform others of what kind of mood the speaker are in, or what he or she is thinking or feeling. It says that that facial expressions can affect one’s ability to understand written language related to emotions. The study supports the psychological hypothesis called embodied cognition, which asserts that cognitive processes are anchored in basic bodily processes of perception, action and emotion. In plain words, our body language more than our words carries more impact on listeners. This is an important confirmation of facial expression and body language as powerful tools in communications.
There are many practical and beneficial things in understanding the power of facial expression and body language. You have heard it many times, in job interviews how you react, compose yourself and use facial and body expressions are counted by the interviewer often more than the very words you say. That is why psychologists and public speaking coaches advise people to face themselves up the mirror to see themselves how they speak, and what kind of facial expression they use when in conversation. This will help us identify those speaking habits and negative and unnecessary facial and body expressions which tend to drown the words we say.
Conversation, like communication, are basically very personal activity. The speaker and the listener engages each other and exchanging messages that could either satisfy each other’s information hunger or meet their expectations. Make sure these exchanges take place within a level of your control by being aware of your facial and body expressions.