Most social scientists agree that there are seven emotional expressions that are basic to every culture. Keep in mind that our face often displays more than one emotion at a time, so we will witness things like a person smiling although their eyes are sad.
According to Dr. Paul Ekman, a renowned psychologist, we can teach people to recognize visible and hidden emotions by carefully reading what is shown on someone’s face. These emotions include sadness, anger, fear, happiness, surprise, contempt, and disgust. Being able to recognize those emotions is helpful, as is being able to recognize your own emotions and your reactions to what’s going on.
Do you tend to often react with anger? With fear? Or are you able to take the information in, work on it optimistically, and prepare for the results?
Let’s look at the seven emotions and their telltale signs.
Sadness comes with a set of identifiable marks: the eyebrows are drawn upwards in the middle and curve down toward the end. There is also a slight vertical furrow between the eyes. Taken together, this is called Darwin’s grief muscle. The outside corners of the mouth point downward as well.
When we are angry, we often press our lips together so hard that the upper lip almost disappears. The eyes may widen across the upper eyelids, while the lower eyelids are contracted. The inner corners of the eyebrows pull downward. There is often enough pressure there to create a furrowed brow.
In fear, a scared person’s eyebrows may be close to horizontal, with wrinkles in evidence across the forehead. Similar to anger, people who are frightened may open the upper eyelid more widely and show more of the whites of their eyes, while the corners of their mouths pull the lips into a horizontal line.
Happiness is generally accompanied by rising cheeks. We describe the accompanying smile as going up to someone’s eyes when the muscles around the eyes tighten (hence the way that smile lines lead to permanent lines around the eyes). Authentic smiles, also called a Duchenne smile, were first described by French neurologist Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne de Boulogne. They are characterized by those eye wrinkles, whereas a phony or forced smile is missing those characteristic smile lines.
Characterized by raised upper eyelids, in addition to exposing additional whites of the eye. The mouth or jaw may also open as a part of the response.
Is anyone rolling their eyes at you? This gesture is quite common in expressions of contempt, in addition to the left corner of the lip being pulled out asymmetrically, creating a dimple.
People who are feeling disgusted may wrinkle their nose as they might to a bad smell, and/or generate wrinkles at the top of the nose between their eyes. The upper lip may also be raised.
What Do Emotions Tell Us?
|Emotion||What It Tells Us|
|Sadness||Lost something of value|
|Anger||Way is blocked or get out of my way|
|Fear||Possible threat; be prepared|
|Happiness||Gained something of value; the way is safe|
|Surprise||Something unexpected happened|
|Contempt||Not worthy of care, hardening of feelings|
|Disgust||Rules are violated|
Applying Emotional Intelligence
Emotional expressions don’t tell us the cause that prompts the response. You have to take into account the situation in which the emotion was expressed and how your own emotions affect the situation in order to understand it. As you try to understand emotions that you witness, it is important to remember that emotions in themselves are neither positive nor negative; it is what we do with the emotion that creates the outcome.
When you learn to leverage what you know about your own reactions to things and the emotions you express, you are developing your emotional intelligence. This will allow you to leverage your intellect and do your very best at anything that you do. This helps to make you a fully aware, competent, self-leader.
When you combine what you understand about self-leadership, including the pillars, you really are demonstrating self-leadership.