Sunday, May 19, 2013

What's That Look On Your Face?

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By Atala,

The human face is capable of an amazing variety of expressions; smiles of joy; frowns of anger; grimaces of disgust and raised eyebrows of surprise. And just as a picture is worth a thousand words, so it is that these expressions do a wonderful job of communicating how we feel, sometimes more than anything that we could ever say.

But it's not every day that our face muscles are doing duty, telling the world how we feel. More often than not, they're relaxed, leaving our faces in 'neutral gear'. The thing is, just because our muscles aren't working doesn't mean that our faces don't show some kind of expression. And unfortunately, this can lead to some crossed wires.

A case in point: I recall someone I used to know in university. He was actually a year ahead of me, so we didn't get much of a chance to interact, but whenever I would pass him in the corridors of the faculty building, I would think to myself "What a miserable so-and-so this guy is - always frowning like he has just swallowed a sour lemon", and it made me glad that I didn't have to interact more with him.

Fast forward a a year or two, and I found myself attending more lectures with him; our lecturers' habits of handing out F's with joyous abandon meant that he had to retake some courses. To my great surprise, as I got to know him better, I found out this 'misanthrope' turned out to be one of the warmest, kindest and caring people that I would come to know. Even till today, I wonder how it can be that someone like that could appear to be frowning all the time.

I have a theory why some people (like my coursemate) might have a frowning face in 'neutral gear'. It could be that they stand under the sun for excessive periods, and they have to squint to reduce the effect of the sun's glare in their eyes. Squinting means that their faces are bunched into a frown, and after a while, this frown becomes their standard expression.

But irrespective of how most people's 'neutral gear' face ends up in a permanent expression, I can't help wondering whether there are people going around with frowns and scaring off people who might want to meet them. The thing is that such people may be completely unaware of the effect of their expression, because they aren't consciously contorting their face into that expression. And I know that making judgments about someone's character based on their expression alone is probably unfair, but really - would you rather approach someone who is frowning or someone who is smiling?

So I guess that just as we are aware of the clothes we wear and the smells that we give off when meeting people, we should add one more thing to the list - what kind of face we are presenting to the world. Do we want to say to everyone that we're friendly and open to conversation? Or do we want to tell the world to back off? And more importantly, is our face telling a different story from what we want to tell?

What's the look on your face now? If you don't know, you can look in a mirror to find out. Or you could simply and consciously make it a smile :)


  1. My default is a smile and i've been told it brightens the room #selfwash lol

  2. I have always had d default frowning face. I still dont know why. I am only just making a conscious effort to put up a smile every time i realise i could be in my default element. So annoying when a friend walks up to ask what d matter is when there is nothing going on.


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