Nonverbal communication makes up more than half of communication. Understanding how to read nonverbal communication–body language and facial expressions–can help with building essential communication skills.

Improving your own nonverbal communication, such as keeping your body language open (no crossed arms), help you communicate with others. A recent study looked into just how much we use our facial expressions to communicate and get what we want.

(Spoiler: It’s a lot!)

Facial expressions shown to be huge part of getting what we want

It’s been generally believed that facial expressions reflect our feelings. You make a mad face when you’re feeling angry, you make a sad face when you’re feeling down–simple, right? According to a new study conducted by the University of California – Santa Barbara, it’s not that simple.

Results revealed that people’s facial expressions tend to reflect our intentions, not our feelings. In other words, we use them to get what we want. Think about how you smile sweetly when you ask your friend for a bite of his sandwich–you’re using that smile as a tool to direct the other person into acting how you want them to act.

In the research, it was actually found that there was little correlation between real emotions and facial expressions. For example, when we make an angry face in an argument, it’s less about being angry, it’s more about pushing the other individual to submit.

Professor Alan J. Fridlund explains further:

“The traditional view of our facial expressions is that they’re about us, that they reveal our moods and emotions. Our faces are not about us, but about where we want a social interaction to go. For example, the ‘cry’ face is usually considered an expression of sadness, but we use that face to solicit succor, whether that means reassurance, words of comfort or just a hug.”

And Fridlund believes that we do this almost constantly. He says we can watch how animals interact through facial expressions–they use them for communication and negotiation. We do the same.

Now, that’s not saying that we use facial expressions the exact same way as primates. Though, it does give more understanding to why we use facial expressions and how to use them in communication skills.

The importance of communication skills

Communication skills help us get what we want. Whether that’s a friend or food or ending an argument–they help us attain those goals. Without them, people struggle to move forward in life and form meaningful relationships with others.

This is why it’s extremely important to develop them. If your teen has problems with communication skills, reach out to a professional for further guidance. Early intervention and help is the key to success.

blueFire Wilderness is here for your family

blueFire Wilderness is a wilderness therapy program for teens. We help teens, ages 11 to 17, grappling with depression, ADHD, anxiety, defiance, and other emotional or behavioral problems.

At blueFire, we strive to help each client find their inner confidence and succeed. We believe that through a balance of self-assessment, insight oriented therapy, outdoor living, adventure activities and academic focus these teens will find their true selves. We provide a supportive opportunity for parents and children to reconnect and strengthen their relationship.

For more information about how we develop communication skills at blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today.



Previous reading
Social Isolation in Teens: The Effects and How to Take Action
Next reading
Targeted: Stigma-Based Bullying Shown to Be More Harmful