top of page
  • Writer's pictureRB Kelly

Negative Facial Expressions: Warning Signs You Need To Heed

Updated: Feb 23, 2019

I'm sure you've been told, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

That's a very polite and gracious way of life, and it certainly has it's place.

Unfortunately, if you only say nice things, you are often precluded from saying harsh-but-true things that need to be said.

So, how will you express those negative emotions if you're not speaking your mind?

Your FACE will do the speaking for you, by showing specific expressions that tell exactly what you're secretly thinking, but too polite to say.

You're not the only one who does this - this is an instinct for communication that goes across all cultures, races, sexes, etc. There are 7 universal facial expressions, and each expression is anchored to a certain emotion.

By recognizing the facial expression someone wears, you can know what they're feeling. You'll have to do some detective work to figure out WHY they're feeling that way, but you'll be able to confidently judge what they are feeling and what to do about it.

These facial expressions can be obvious, slow, and easy to spot. But usually, they last only a fraction of a second, and require sharp eyes and familiarity in order to recognize.

In this post, you'll learn about one of those expressions, what it means, how to recognize it, and how to respond when you see it.

First up: Contempt!

No, not contentment. Contempt. Here's the difference.

Contentment: a state of happiness and satisfaction.

Contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.

Very different! Here's a few examples of me wearing contempt:

Contempt is a tightening on one side of the mouth. Most facial expressions are symmetrical (they look the same on both sides of the face), but contempt is asymmetrical (it happens on only one side of the face.)

If you've seen Bruce Willis in any of the Die Hard movies, you've seen contempt. While contempt can be used to look down on others, it can also be used to convey just how cool you are. Action heroes like Bruce Willis use contempt to say, "I'm a big deal. Look how cool I am."

I picked up this cue as a teenager and used it in a bunch of photos and whenever I was meeting someone new to show how cool I was.

As you can imagine, it didn't attract a lot of friends. Here's me using this expression in one of my teenage Halloween photos, and in a few old Facebook selfies:

It's one thing to spot an expression like this when it's captured and frozen in a photograph at just the right time.

It's a completely different thing to capture it in real time in real life, so here's a chance to practice. This is a video in which contempt, anger, shame, and self-soothing behaviors are exhibited excessively. Look for the one-sided tightening of the mouth - you can see it clearly at 00:14, and it happens continuously throughout the clip.

When I show this clip to my coaching clients, they are shocked by how FAST and how SMALL the expressions are. Before working with me, they wouldn't have noticed these signals at all.

There's a LOT going on in the minds and hearts of the people around you, but you have NO IDEA. Because you don't know what to look for.

That ignorance is why you're blindsided when the boss promotes someone else.

That ignorance is why you're shocked when a sales pitch goes south.

That ignorance is why you're stung when a date goes wrong or devastated when a marriage falls apart.

If you knew what to look for, you could see these disasters coming and work to prevent them. But because you haven't been trained in how to read and interpret the body language of the people around you, you are forced to depend on them to communicate with their words.

And as you know - there's a lot that people are thinking and feeling, but are too polite to say. And if you knew what was really going on behind the scenes, it would totally change the way you act and react to them.

For example: showing contempt is one of the best and most accurate predictors of divorce, so if you're in a relationship and you see this expression on your spouse, one of two things could happen:

1. You have no idea what the expression means, so you continue to live in ignorance about the emotional issues in your marriage, and are blindsided and devastated by divorce and/or infidelity.

OR 2. You know exactly what the expression means and what to do about it, and can see the giant roadsign saying, "DIVORCE AHEAD! TURN BACK NOW!" Because you see that, you can choose to address the underlying issues, strengthen your relationship, and build a marriage that's happier and healthier than ever.

That's the power of understanding how to read and interpret body language.

How much are you missing in the conversations around you?

What surprises could you have seen coming, if you'd just known what to look for?

What's happening in your life right now that's totally invisible to you?

How long are you going to stay blind?

Let's talk about the power of reading body language, and discover your options for learning how to read and interpret body language so you're not blindsided in your relationships ever again. Or, check out my upcoming online workshops so you can start reading body language with skill and confidence.

4,910 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page