Alexander appeared on Star Trek: She had a good technical skill set, but her people interaction was honestly the worst I had ever seen. He was trying to get me to do something that would have undermined the structural integrity of the teapots, because he had no idea about design or balance, or even common sense. These effects - and similar powerful examples - have existed in real human experience and behaviour for thousands of years. How do we challenge our friends? The word was devised in the late s or early s by Edward Twitchell Hall, an American anthropologist. He didn't even have an army to fight with him.
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The point is, no one knows what your thoughts or emotions are. I hope this helps. Smiling and acknowledging can be much more difficult than containing your inner laughter. I second what Steven and Maxwell have said: You need to see everything that happens at work as a play.
You are the spectator. We will be bereft when she retires. If you look bored, zoned-out-or grumpy, you might want to try some exercises that involve relaxing your facial muscles to try to achieve a more neutral resting face. Otherwise you do risk coming off as unapproachable or even hostile and unfriendly. Is there a way you could constructively express your point of view? Or is your point of view unwanted? If your point of view is unwanted, do you have to attend these meetings at all?
You bring up an interesting point. I think that bored is definitely a BAD facial expression to communicate. The fact is, if she was as complacent with her expressions as they seem to want her to be, I think it would have been easier for them to put her needs out of their mind.
This is something I used to be bad at when I started my career, but have gotten good at, largely through practice. The better you get at this, the easier it becomes to course-correct. How am I communicating that to others? With enough practice, it becomes your default. Do you snap without thinking when someone makes a relatively harmless joke at your expense? Be honest and constructive about it, but say it! This will help keep people from drawing their own conclusions.
How do you think we can we address the holdup from our teapot supplier? I thought we had addressed the revenue numbers last call. When you label your own emotions, you sort of preemptively stop other people from labeling them for you. I am terrible at this. It was a learning experience about how people perceive things. The only thing that works for me is to pretend I am royalty and try to look stoic. Which was true, I did, but I had no idea that my reactions were so obvious. Our teenagers roll their eyes all the time.
I had a coworker that rolled her eyes at everything that was said. I wanted to ask if she needed to see a doctor, because she made the gesture so frequently. We are talking dozens of times in one shift. I did some reading on it and apparently eye-rolls are a part of typical work place bully behavior.
Come to find out, my coworker did other behaviors on the list, also. If she had not habitually rolled her eyes, I never would have learn all this stuff. I used to roll my eyes once in a great while, now I try to avoid it all the time. It just does not fly well at all in the work place and it does tend to discredit the one doing it. People do pick up on eye rolling and they notice it much quicker than one would think. I agree with the person who mentioned that used what they learned during theater… I used to have the same issue as the issue posted.
It diffuses any potentially emotional responses from the other side and takes away any ammunition they could possibly bring up later as leverage in future dealings. It absolutely works and you feel more in control of the conversations. All the advice listed is great though so whatever brings you a sense of calm and objectivity -try that. So it can backfire. I grew up with six brothers who were allowed to bully me—I learned to show no fear, no nothing.
At a job with an office bully, I was confronted in a meeting by the bully, for something that I had nothing to do with. My absolutely blank face and the fact that I said nothing for a very long pause, drove the bully into a screaming fit.
What was really going on was that I was afraid I was about to be fired, for angering the bully so much—by doing nothing. Being picked on during childhood by peers or authority figures seems to be one of the more effective ways of developing a poker face, unfortunately. Extreme politeness is a great default to fall back on.
Extreme politeness with a British accent works even better! The best advice I got was from a long-time flight attendant. Her trick was to escalate politeness when customers become angry and irritable. In her experience, people slowly became aware of their jerkface behavior and adopted a calm ashamedness in the face of her unflappable civility. I do this too.
I had this problem. I worked in a very toxic environment. I would be listening to my boss and the top boss, and instead of rolling my eyes, I would just sit there. So I sat and listened. That situation did not end well for me. Now what I do is, and this is going to sound super crazy, I wiggle my toes. It make you aware of your whole body, and it is a little bit calming. As I said, I know it sounds crazy, but it helps. You might still be surrounded by idiots, but at least you are more calm about it.
But I think one thing that will help is for you to know your audience. Focusing on your breathing keeps you in the moment, and can help you get from A to Z without diverging long enough to let a wayward expression slip.
But I do have to echo the sentiments above that if this is that serious an issue you may want to reconsider if this particular work environment is the right one for you. I actually kind of like that idea.
First, try just keeping a certain level of detachment from the conversation. Your account of driving your parents insane as a child makes me realize that the limited amount of poker-face ability I have actually WAS developed in childhood. My sister and I used to play this game with each other at the dinner table, where we usually sat across from one another.
The object of the game was to remain stoic and to not actually drool. Invariably one of us either drooled or cracked up. Our parents never did figure out what we were doing. Ooh, this is great advice. I definitely have learned to keep a poker face around my dad and change the subject as soon as possible because our politics and religious views are so different. Pretend to be an anthropologist, studying the local tribes. View all their behavior through the lens of someone observing their behavior clinically.
Which is challenged by the beta leader, pointing out one tiny aspect of one small part of one small project which she managed quite nicely.
Their posturing is challenged by the IT guy, who does not have to worry about status. As an outsider to the group, but essential to their day-to-day work, he has the liberty to cut to the chase and demand that they get to the point, or he will penalize them by leaving the meeting early.
The consequence of that is that the start of their new database interface will be delayed by at least a week. The remainder of the tribe has resorted to checking Facebook under the table in an attempt to not be drawn in to the power struggle. I already think of myself as an anthropologist in a very strange country so all I have to do now is add narration and soundtrack!
Every now and then I think about how awful it would be if people could suddenly read my mind. Study Is Hard Work, a book for students, has a lot of advice about how to handle lectures that seem boring — something similar might help in meetings. I remember one suggestion was to come in with questions and pay close attention to see if you got answers; another was to try to predict what the speaker would cover and pay attention to see if you were right.
If all else fails, I suppose you could work up Bingo card. When I was younger, I took gymnastics and one of the things the teachers would drill into us was that we had to see ourselves completing the action before we started it.
I try to apply that to various aspects of my life. I imagine what someone might say and how I should react to that and I run that through my head. You can practice on yourself; when you are angry, do you tend to jiggle your leg? Do you fiddle with your hair when someone asks you a difficult question? Turn this back on them. Observe their facial expressions. Do they fiddle with their pens before delivering harsh criticism? If you want to have a poker face, I would think up the type of meeting you expect it to be and run it through your head a number of times with various answers and reactions to situations.
I taught myself to respond and then go elsewhere to react later. I pretend to be someone in a TV show. By emulating such poise and composure, it helps me detach from the emotion and immediate reactions and helps me keep completlye cool and calm.
Something that I think would help is to work to improve your overall self-esteem. I have a lot of confidence, and I find that its easy for me to shut this kind of thing down before it even gets going. I think this ties in because I feel like this is also the kind of thing you can see on a persons face — if I walked into meetings with a hint of terror, they would be all over me. I tend to smile, look people right in the eye, and respond extremely calmly — it can be very disarming to people who are trying to suck you into something.
It generally gets them to shut up almost immediately. People like that tend to hope you will be too nervous or scared to respond, smiles and eye contact shows them you are not threatened by them, in my opinion.
As a plus, you end up looking friendly and easy to work with and they end up looking difficult and unpleasant. I lived through four years of monthly Project Planning meetings with 3 different business groups present.
They all hated each other and would get in digs and finger pointing whenever possible. Very high school mean person stuff.
Not productive at all, but since the majority of the problems were at director level, it continued unchecked.
Sometimes it was directed at me. I knew I had to get this under control to be able to do at the very least, my job. What I developed for me to live through this was first — be beyond prepared. After a few meetings I could tell who was paying attention, reading updates, doing what they were supposed to do and who was not. I educated myself on the entire project, not just my part.
Then came the the ability to disconnect emotionally. It was hard, but I wrote a mantra for myself and repeated it my head in these meetings. Next I practiced a slight bland, but interested smile on my face — not stone poker and not smirking. I practiced in the mirror. I then used it in every meeting. At first it was really hard to concentrate on my expressions, pay attention and take notes. After they were all blown out, then I would come in with my comments — slowly and calmly.
It was really hard for me, for I am very expressive facially. It was a lot of work to just keep this demeanor, but it became easier and easier. You can do it but it will take time and practice. Perhaps this is a little too simple, but it works for me. Or clearly show that I think whoever is speaking is full of bullcrap.
Whatever the case may be. Practice definitely helps when trying to achieve a neutral expression. I used the following in very contentious meetings with vendors who were well known for button punching:.
The point is to keep my body language open. Keep my eyebrows in a neutral position—no elevator eyebrows, no scowl of death and doom, just nice neutral eyebrows.
Voice volume is also moderate, not loud, not soft but Baby Bear just right. They will need to quiet down a bit to hear you. I was getting my butt handed to me in a meeting, really quite brutal and could feel I was getting worked up myself. So there you go, maybe you can purr on the inside. Bizarrely enough, it works. Leaning in slightly helps too. Yes, I used to teach music K through 9th grade and used this a lot with the kids in my classes.
As odd as it sounds, it really does work. In order to hear me, they have to stop talking. Is it that you end up looking like a lousy employee? Is it that meetings get off track and unproductive? You can use them to your benefit to gain trust, build relationships and influence others behavior, and develop them like any other skill if you want those outcomes.
Get a friend to role-play with you. Have them read you dramatic headlines and make strong, offensive statements while you try to stay neutral. I once worked on a commercial where the little girl in the scene had to bite into a star fruit. It was extremely sour, and she tried so hard not to make a sour face, it was funny, but the shot was unusable. So, the director instructed her for the next time, the more sour it is, the bigger I want you to smile.
So, OP, the more sour or bitter the situation is, the bigger you should smile. Or, at least remember to check the muscles in your face, realize what they are doing. Literally, try to picture what you would look like in the mirror. Is your mouth frowning, are your eyebrows up in surprise or doubt? Feel it, then change it. Learned that one in high school to keep from crying when my parents yelled at me. Learn from poker players. If their face gives them away, they wear sunglasses. But obviously that would look silly in the office.
HAve you tried wearing one of those V For Vendetta masks? Literally biting my tongue on its side not the tip stops me from feeling like I want to cry.
And taking a deep breath. If eye-rolling is one of your tells, just learn to look down when you feel the urge. Ditto with the deep breath here before replying. There have been some really great suggestions. One thing that I would add is that it sounds like these coworkers are set for battle and are grasping at straws if facial expressions are the target.
Congratulate yourself that your professionalism has them searching for reasons to pounce. As to techniques, one of my professors in a trauma therapy class suggested watching scary movies and practicing the poker face. Slowing breathing is classic, as someone has mentioned, breath deep to the point your belly expands to avoid hyperventilating.
Also constricting all your muscles and holding before releasing helps to bring relaxation. Just practice this before meetings so you walk in relaxed or just in areas not seen like maybe your legs under the table. I have, no joke, a mental pillow fort. It gets more elaborate the more stressed out I am. For example in the green lantern comics it is explained that each of the characters has a different style.
One person is an artist so their mental constructs are artistically made. Another needs to understand how something functions so if he creates something mechanical he knows how all the gears are working inside. I remember reading about somebody who was stuck in prison and to pass the time mentally built an exact duplicate of the prison brick by brick. He would think about the mud from the ground and what it would take to shape it into a brick.
He would carry the brick to the right spot, put it down and level it. But if you are trying to build a pillow for imagine what you want.
Simple comfort, imagine 3 pillows from a big couch. Stand two up straight and place the third on top. Sit yourself inside in a position you feel comfortable. Imagine the couch against a wall and the three pillows are creating a high ceiling for your fort. Personally, the visualisations help me with general feelings.
So the first example would be a feeling of secure on all sides and queen of my own demain. David Rakoff from This American Life suggested this one. Hold one hand in the other. Write with a finger on your opposite palm: Your expression will become sunnier and calmer. By the time I write a word or two, it just looks like an ink blot. I have also used writing on my hand. Alison, when I tried to look at this page on my phone it automatically downloaded something.
I have a Samsung 5 and was going through my Facebook page with the Pale Moon browser. But the point is, those weak moments need to stay private. When you walk down the hall, your presence and how others perceive you can matter depending upon your work environment.
My goal at the office is to portray confidence. I read this somewhere, a parenting book, I think: These are all great ideas. Be prepared to nail your poker face and get the accusations anyway. This might sound silly, but one thing that really works for me is pretending. Once, I was working in a unit where I was very happy. Half an hour after that announcement, I was scheduled to present in a meeting with the person who I had just learned was going to be my new boss.
I had never interacted with him before: The meeting went very well, my boss told me afterward that she was very proud of how I handled it. Then I went home that night and had margaritas and watched Iron Man until I felt better about things. A few things that have generally work for me: I imagine the worst thing someone could say or do and practice my reaction to it — odds are good if I can manage THAT reaction, I can manage about anything.
Again, practice allows me to execute in real time when my emotions may be higher. If someone says triggering, I immediately take a sip. I think about this crazy cartoon image of a grizzly bear, with sharks with lasers and unicorns and stuff on it. Oh, one other thing and this really is something I do only very rarely.
Literally I step out of the room, perhaps faking a coughing attack, then go to the restroom or the kitchen for a moment to reset. Another good excuse if you really, really have to leave: Best happy place ever! Makes for great crutch and distractor from my facial expressions.
Carry a notepad everywhere and keep your head down. Other than that, play dumb. Not a nice position to be in. I used to regularly get verbally jabbed by a co-worker on the same team, at the regular team meetings. Being mentally prepared that it might happen.
Having advance warning seemed to work better than being blindsided. Another good for staving off tears is to dig my nails into the palm of my hand, or some other pain stimulus. Tag on to this question but how do you keep your face from going red when you get angry…my poker face is pretty decent thank you retail experience …at least, until I get angry then it goes all red. I get the redness too. I used to be a terrible blusher. I would say this even if it did hurt me, because I absolutely had to get through the situation.
I could deal with the pain later when I was alone. What was surprising to me is that in a quieter moment, I would try to figure out how something hurt me and why did I have a strong negative reaction. Sometimes, I would come up empty- this made me realize the reaction was unnecessary. I had worked through the hassle and the situation was over.
It depends on the cause of the blushing, though. If I did something stupid, I found the faster I apologized and took steps to fix the problem if fixing was needed then the sooner I stopped blushing. It felt like I had trained my brain to be confident that I would follow up on whatever was wrong. When I brought my own commitment to the foreground, I was able to get less angry and, in turn, I blushed less.
Yes, OP, what people have said here will be very helpful. You can go one step further. Look for common threads or repeat emotions. Figure out why they are happening and see if there is something you can do about it. I found that if I rushed in the door one minute before I was due into work, I would get flustered easily for the first part of the morning. It was the rushing that did me in. The solution was to arrive a bit earlier. The point of this example is not everything has some deep, hidden solution.
You can do little things to help yourself. Small sips of air through the nose waaaay down deep into the solar plexus. If you do yoga etc. What kind of faces are we talking about here? If they want to bog down the conversation in discussing your facial expression then just let them do so and look silly while you politely yet to shift the conversation to more productive topics.
In the middle of last year, with only one exception, my degree feedback was entirely positive when it came to my communication style — everyone enjoyed working with me. I figured that this feedback would have come from one of two people. So I adjusted my style in any meeting those two stakeholders attended. I retained humor and my original approach in all my other meetings and conversations.
And, so far, it does seem to be working. Time will tell, though. In addition, when someone gives you feedback like this, it gives you additional context about what makes that person tick and how they operate — additional information that you can use to achieve what you want with them.
I so agree with everything you have said. And I agree that this can feel manipulative or conniving or brown-nosing. To counter-balance that feeling, I want to toss out the saying of my old boss: No one will ever tell you. But part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with others. Those were the reliable people. And I brought them some verrry challenging problems.
Years later when people brought me their worst of the worst problems, I realized that it was a subtle compliment. They trusted me not to blow up, not to become emotional and to help them look for solutions. Wear a scarf or a turtleneck. Strong emotions can make your neck or chest flush. Keep your hands on the table — and keep them still. Try not to fidget with jewelry, or writing instruments.
Breathe from the belly. I struggle with teeth grinding when I sleep. No wonder I grind my teeth. Deep breathing also helps. As an earlier poster said, some people will always feel the need to pick fights and taunt you. When I realize that I need to discuss a project with them, I relax my face, and remind myself to give no reaction when they pounce on me.
I just quietly pause for a few seconds, and calmly look at them while saying nothing. I also got a shaky voice. Then, unfortunately I went through a really awful experience. I had to work with and for some awful people, but when they acted up I just felt like a sort of apathetic contempt for them and kept a stone face. In any case, I think control of your emotions is the best way. Approach these meetings in a matter-of-fact fashion. If you focus on facts and concrete evidence it can help to keep a straight face, at least for me.
Sticking to facts and learning to leave emotion out of it will help drastically. From how it sounds though, you are in a place that has several people that are all out to make themselves look good by taking others out at the knees then stabbing them in the back.
This is interesting, too. Because if you decide just to collect up facts, it is amazing how much emotion people will load in with the facts as they tell you about what you need to know. Some of the coolest people I know, solely deal in facts. They seem not to hear any emotion. I agree that these combative co-workers are the problem.
My boss has a my-way-or-else mentality, and when I voice an opinion contrary to hers, she starts blinking like crazy.
My fiance, too, blinks when I nag him for wearing shoes around the house. The flutters always give emotions away. Just be extra aware of your eyes when that person says something that raises a question mark in your mind. I know that my emotions will be plain to see, so keeping the emotions down matters to me more than hiding them.
I could flip the page discretely any time I needed to see that. Really helped keep my reactions in check. Be respectful, both with them and with yourself. I mean so what if you have a facial expression in response to external stimuli? If the OP looks like they are caught off guard by a comment, they immediately continue to pile on that to make it hard for the OP to recover their train of thought, rebuff or simply state their case.
In fact, I view it as a key prerequisite to doing so productively. I try to catch myself and concentrate on keeping my face neutral. I have a coworker who is prone to telling ridiculous stories as small talk to clients. I actively concentrate on keeping a pleasant, neutral face when he starts talking about the time he saw a UFO, but several of my other coworkers try to catch my eye, kick me under the table, or egg him on.
As for the requisite anecdote: Some expressions microexpressions are involuntary and subconscious. Then there are the facial expressions that you are aware of and can control. Honestly, sometimes it can be as simple as slightly biting your bottom lip to clear up your expression of emotion. Think of it terms of trying to stop a laugh. My favorite is Cordelia Vorkosigan, who has been in the middle of interplanetary power struggles and is really not impressed by your office politicking.
She also tends to let it show when she thinks people are being idiots, though, so I have to make sure not to slip into that! Cordelia Vorkosigan is my hero. They want to see an actively positive face. So what works best for me is not hiding my thoughts, but changing my approach. And visualizing it helps me maintain it. This is a very good point. He was trying to get me to do something that would have undermined the structural integrity of the teapots, because he had no idea about design or balance, or even common sense.
It does seem lessen whatever defensive reaction a person would have to my scrunched up grumpy face. Another suggestion to practice your poker face. The best way to get a grip on it is to practice. You can do that with friends or family members. You can have them make up crazy stories or read you news articles that are highly controversial or opinionated. As they share these stories, tell them to alert you when your facial expressions change. You can also videotape this sort of exercise and play it back so you can see what your facial expressions and how they change.
Play bluffing games for fun. A game like Balderdash, where you have to fake other players out, can be helpful for building this skill.
For me, stoicism became crucial when I worked for Horrible Boss. This woman would say or do just about anything to get a reaction out of me. She was such a bully. One day, she called me into her office to scream at me, and I just stood there in front of her desk, staring back at her with a completely blank expression.
She got nothing from me — no emotional reaction. Why do you just stand there looking like that? What does it take to get you to react?! The best gift I ever gave myself when I worked for that woman was to never, ever give her the satisfaction.
I would stare at the space between her eyebrows sometimes or at the wall behind one of her ears. I would bite the sides of my tongue or press the tip of my tongue against my teeth. Being conscious of my breathing also helped. Keeping your head down and taking notes also can help. Once, I worked for an extremely abusive boss as well. Her temper tantrums and screaming abuse were so difficult for me to endure. One day, I wanted to show her her own ugliness. As she was screaming at me, I imagined that I was holding up a mirror for her, reflecting her true colors right back at her.
I remained calm and detached. She became angrier and angrier. I just stood there. I was sick of being her punching bag. I was just reflecting it straight back at her. I went back to my desk and felt a combination of emotions.
On one hand, I felt triumphant that I had shown her exactly how ugly and abusive she really was. On the other, I felt real fear as to how I would be made to pay later. She tried to get me fired, and threatened my job literally every day. I was young and never should have worked for her as long as I did. Warburton is also the voice of Ranger, a forest ranger, in a series of radio spots for the national Smokey Bear campaign sponsored by the U. Forest Service and the Ad Council.
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