Blog courtesy of physiotherapist Joanne Dowds
The eyes might be the window to the soul but the face can be a mirror to your thought processes or emotional state. Up to 70% of communication happens in body language and posture, as humans we are hard wired to pick up non visual ques, regardless of what the tone or content of a message. I am the not so proud owner of a resting bitch face( RBF), a term used to describe women in particular who don’t smile a lot particularly when listening. I hope I have the full array of human expressions but there is a lot of photographic evidence of my reposing frown.
I have years of photos stretching back to early childhood, where I have my arms crossed am frowning at the camera in dodgy hand-me-down jumpers. The common denominator is a severe glare and a bad fringe. I can’t fake emotion convincingly so I don’t. If I’m happy, I smile and if I am asked to pose, its blue steel all the way. It’s either there or isn’t. I will never win an award for my fake smiling attempts, as a side bar a guaranteed best way to wreck my head is to tell me to smile.
It’s not all bad, RBF has its uses; it is hard to read, great for pretending to be an intellectual when internally I’m singing the latest earworm; to generate the illusion of potential aggression on the GAA pitch back in my very short heyday, I was also very unskilled so it helped no end at keeping forwards at bay. It also means I can give great stink eye, silencing someone with a glance is a useful skill. The term ‘game face’ encapsulates the ability of a determine face to set the tone in competitive interactions. Many teams harness the power of a physical squaring off to intimidate whether in the tunnel, on the pitch such as the All Blacks and the haka, squaring off in the boxing ring or the focused faces of those in a pre-race line up.
While I am not deliberately trying to intimate it sometimes comes across that way. Recently in work I was asked to film a piece to camera, while I had the usual and expected nerves, I did my piece, got the right words in the right order so I was content. The camera man and director asked me to do a few takes and on the last take asked me to smile more. I cracked a few jokes to the room about the RBF, and as I am generally obedient I complied so we moved on with some added genuine smiles. During the week as I recounting the story I did wonder if a man would have been instructed to smile in the same situation. I got progressively higher on my feminist high horse until I saw the clips played back for editing. Lord it was dire and I was dreadfully dour until the last take where I was bit more open and eminently easier to watch and listen to. I am a feminist but people who smile appear more open and are generally easier to engage with whether they are men or women.
So lessons, watching yourself on film is incredibly revealing and also difficult. Dance studios have mirrors for a reason, dancers need to know how it looks to the audience, they need to see what the audience will see. Most of the general population have poor awareness of where their body is in space and what message that its communicating myself included. It’s difficult to trust someone to give you really honest feedback on how you are coming across to others. Film is undisputable. Also you need to have great trust in your director! I think I will hold off on the Oscar speech.
I am going to try to be more aware of how I engage in interactions but just so you all know, the Medusa face may look like I am contemplating the intricacies of a hard border Brexit on Northern Ireland but it’s much more likely I’m humming Baby shark dodododoooooo.