Your Face Says It All: Facial Expressions from Successfully Speaking

There is so much more to communication than just what you say. Your body language, facial expressions, and eye contact (or lack thereof) are just as important as words when you’re communicating with others. For example, consider a time that you were being interviewed. Was your interviewer serious the whole time, or did they smile? How did their facial expressions make you feel while you were being interviewed? Were you unnerved by a serious interviewer....Put at ease by someone who smiled and made eye contact? Have you seen someone deliver bad news with a smile on their face? Then you already know the importance of facial expressions for communication and how facial expression should match the emotional content.

What you may not have considered is how communicating through facial expressions actually works. First and foremost, it’s always important to be conscious and aware of your facial expressions. It can be second nature to frown when you're upset or smile when something goes your way. Once in a while, though, it’s necessary to employ a “poker face,” especially in the business world. Being able to hide your emotions with a blank face or smile when you’re upset can come in handy if you’re trying to appear neutral to a potential employer or business partner.

If you’re giving a speech or a presentation where you’re trying to make people comfortable, start out with a smile. It will show your audience that you’re happy to be there, and confident in the material that you’re about to deliver. While your smile may be a little forced (especially if you’re nervous), try to make it as natural as possible. Think of something that makes you happy before you stand up, and hold on to that thought before you begin your speech or presentation. It will make your smile seem more organic and believable. Genuine smiles travel all the way up to your eyes. 

To better understand what your facial expressions are like, and how they convey messages, take some time to make faces in front of a mirror. It may seem a little silly to you at first, but it will help you understand how your facial muscles feel when you are expressing certain emotions. Try out the 7 main emotions that are expressed through facial expressions, and then see how they compare in feeling to the real emotions in order to grasp better control of how you’re communicating.

  1. Joy
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Contempt
  5. Surprise
  6. Fear
  7. Disgust

If you have a mirror handy when you’re experiencing these feelings organically, try to take a second to see how your face looks and take stock of how your muscles feel. Understanding your personal facial expressions will help you to communicate more effectively both one-on-one and in presentation settings.

And remember to smile on the telephone! It actually comes through in your voice! 

Want to know learn more about facial expression and body language in communication? Successfully Speaking can help you learn more about yourself and what your most effective communication style is. Visit our website at, or give us a call for a FREE 15 minute consultation at 410-356-5666.