How to Read Facial Expressions

Think you're good at reading someone just by their facial expressions? These tips will help you figure out what's going on inside their head -- even if they're trying not to show it.


  • Step 1: The so-called "face of shame" worn by many politicians when they admit to wrongdoing -- lips tightly pressed together and curved downward at the corners -- is actually not shame at all, because there is no universal expression of shame. Some nonverbal behavior experts believe that look is an expression of control: The person is struggling to keep their emotions in check and hide how they really feel.
  • Step 2: Watch for micro-expressions: honest emotions that "leak" out when a person is trying to hide them. To see them, you'll have to pay close attention -- they last for less than 1/25th of a second! Good luck with your face reading!
  • FACT: The most common way people try to hide our emotions is with a fake smile.
  • Step 3: Know when a face is registering disgust: Their eyebrows will be pulled down; their upper lip will be pulled up; their nose will wrinkle, like they're smelling something bad; and their lips will be slack.
  • TIP: Contempt is the only unilateral facial expression.
  • Step 4: Catch someone in the act of faking sadness by looking at their chin: If it's bunched up, the sadness is probably insincere. To fake a sad look, people usually pull down the corners of their mouth, and 90% of people also move their chin muscle in the process. In a genuine look of sadness, the chin doesn't move.
  • Step 5: Know that you've made someone mad -- even if they're trying to hide it -- when you see their eyebrows pulled down; their eyelids pulled up; and their lips set in a tight roll.
  • Step 6: Recognize contempt when you see it -- the person's eyes won't betray them, but their lips will: One corner will be pulled up and back on one side only.
  • Step 7: Spot the sign of a real smile: tiny wrinkles at the outer corner of the eyes. In a fake smile, those "laugh lines" are missing.

Popular Categories