Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Just say no, Adam Bryant, to scary face-vibe

Mug shot: Adam Bryant
Adam Bryant on LinkedIn
I have mixed feelings about a post by Adam Bryant on LinkedIn about nonverbal cues. A subordinate asked Bryant, “Are you mad at me,” reaching this conclusion based upon something he or she had read in Bryant’s face.

From the incident, Bryant said he learned “a memorable lesson that day about how people can read so much into subtle, and often unintended, cues. From that moment on, I found myself making much more of an effort to be aware of my body language, particularly with the team of reporters I was leading, and to always show energy, confidence and optimism, even if I was on a tight deadline and wrestling with a difficult problem.”

I think Bryant is correct that people will look to a leader for guidance and watch his or her every move. And being aware of the impression you are making is certainly good advice.

I have severe misgivings, however, about “picking a face” and then consistently displaying that same face all the time.

I have a difficult enough time interpreting nonverbal cues from facial expressions and body language without their being compounded by an unnaturally blank expression or one that appears not to quite fit with what’s going on. A furrowed brow is less ambiguous even if my conclusion is wrong.

Your carefully neutral expression will more likely give off the scary face-vibe and then I’ll really wonder if you’re angry at me.

I was directed to Bryant’s post via a blog entry by Steve Buttry.

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