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  • Writer's pictureRB Kelly

How To Spot A Grumpy Person Before They Bite Your Head Off

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Whether you're in sales, management, customer service, or dealing with friends, family, or lovers - you get to deal with grumpy people.

That's one of the guarantees of life! Death, taxes, and grumpy people.

I began studying body language long before I made it a career. I started studying body language in high school, and didn't start my career as a body language trainer for several years after. This gave me a chance to test my body language skills in the 'real world,' so to speak.

I worked bussing and waiting tables. I worked in a shuttle transportation company. I worked in a marketing company. I worked as a government receptionist. I worked in collections.

Everywhere I worked, I dealt with angry customers and jerks. I was hit on by guys three times my age. I was threatened with bodily harm. In one place, I even got a death threat!

But what made those jobs fun for me was the challenge of taking a customer that nobody else wanted to work with, and building a rapport with them so they'd treat me like a decent human being. That was my thing.

Coworkers and managers would mention to me, "Wow, you handled that angry customer really well." It got to the point where my coworkers would hand difficult conversations over to ME instead of to the manager. And I was blown away when a few of my managers started doing that as well!

Whether you're dealing with angry customer service complaints, a rude employee/boss, a reluctant cold lead, or a member of your family - you can take a nasty situation and turn it around if you have the right tools on your side.

My step-by-step process is only available for clients, but I'm sharing the first step here.

In order to solve the problem, you have to RECOGNIZE THERE IS A PROBLEM.

And when you're dealing with face-to-face customers, the easiest way to recognize there is a problem is to look at their face.

Why? Because a person's face will show which emotion they are feeling several seconds before they even realize they are feeling it. So if you can read their face, you have a better idea of what they're feeling than they do themselves.


So, reading someone's face - what does it look like when someone has a problem with you?

We could look at someone's eyes, eyebrows, forehead, and even nose, but today we're just going to focus on the lips.

Here's a photo to show a mouth in neutral position, at rest:

The mouth is relaxed, and in this case, the corners are pointing slightly up. Okay. So we've got our baseline.

Now let's look at grumpy mouths:

The first one is typically called a lip purse. The second expression is a lip press. And the third and fourth photos show a lip compression with different intensities. When Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter series uses one of the last 2 expressions, it's described as her lips thinned.

A lip purse typically shows disagreement. If you make a claim such as, "The sky is purple," and the person you're talking to happens to believe, "The sky is green," then you are likely to see a lip purse. This is helpful to look for in sales conversations because it acts as a clear sign that the client disagrees with whatever just came out of your mouth.

Occasionally the lip purse is used when someone doesn't necessarily disagree with what you've said, but it's not something they've though of before and they're 'chewing' on it, so to speak.

The lip press, on the other hand, is more often used as a sign of disapproval or irritation.

You'll notice that the lip press looks a lot like contempt - except the lip press is a symmetrical expression, and contempt happens only on one side of the mouth.

To me, this isn't a huge distinction, because whether the expression is contempt or a lip press, the underlying emotion is negative and indicates that there's some definite problems needing to be solved.

Here's a handy little poem that's common in body language circles to help you remember the lip compression: When we don't like what we see or hear, our lips disappear. Keep in mind that the thinner the lips, the more irritation, frustration, disapproval, or anger that someone is feeling.

Those are the 4 grumpy mouths that you should be on the lookout for! As helpful as these skills were in the workplace, I've found they're even more useful at home.

When you, your friends, and your family members can recognize when one of the others is in a bad mood, and know how to deal with them, you can drastically cut down on conflict, enjoy more of your time together, and create a stronger, happier relationship.

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