For those of us cursed with a blank expression that screams “I’m thinking murderous thoughts”, first impressions usually get off on the wrong foot. On the inside, you might be pure goodness and light, but if you’re thinking about how much you love kittens, while your face is saying, “I’m going to hurt some kittens”, not everyone is going to be your BFF. At least, not immediately. If you’re a daydreamer who tends to get lost in your own thoughts, it’s even worse. Your failure to respond to comments can make you look like a prized biatch. So how do you recognise the signs and what do you do about it? We ask the experts to help us out.
Are you a “bitchface”?
After speaking with you, have people said to you “actually you’re really nice” with surprise?
Do people always ask if you’re upset or angry, when you’re thinking happy thoughts?
Have you been told you’re intimidating to approach?
Have you had a friend tell you they thought you were a snob before even speaking to you?
If you’ve said yes to any of the above, then the diagnosis is you (probably) have a “bitchface”. Our condolences (jokes), it really isn’t the end of the world. But if you want to make a better first impression, we can help you out.
How to make yourself more approachable
“First impressions happen surprisingly quickly – sometimes in only three seconds you have been “assessed” and “judged”,” says Philip Owens, an executive coach and high performance specialist at Resourced Leaders. An expert on creating positive impressions, Owens says a large part of it is formed by “projections” from a person’s own belief and unconscious. In other words, if you look like their jerk ex, you might not be making a new friend.
Sadly, since the thoughts are trapped in their brain, there’s not a lot you can do to change the pre-conceived ideas they’re pushing onto you. But don’t lose hope! There are two other important factors going into their decision-making process and you can do a lot to change those. So what are they? They’re the subtle and overt signals you’re radiating with your body language. Overt signals are blatant ones like smiling or pointing and laughing. Subtle signal are unconscious cues you might not even be aware of. Both are something you can change if you have the right intentions.
“If you have an intention (and you have to really mean it) of friendliness, curiosity and positivity, all of your overt and subtle facial and body language cues will align and be conveyed to others. If you’re feeling superior, angry, disinterested, afraid or even bored, your cues will match this and the person will know immediately!”
If you’ve felt someone couldn’t wait for you to shut up without knowing why, then you know how this impression is communicated.
Faking it until you make it only goes so far, you need to be totally in harmony with your feeling.
“If you fake it but don’t fully commit to appearing approachable, this incongruence will trigger a defensive response in the deepest parts of the brain – the amygdala – and this will work against you.” Triggering your defence mechanism will completely change your body language and will just create a false impression.
Watch out for “micro signs” as well. According to research by Paul Eckmann, there are seven unique facial expressions that we unconsciously “leak” in fractions of second. It’s these little signs that are difficult to hide.
The Eckman signs to avoid:
Contempt: a small flick at the side of the mouth.
Disgust: slightly curling your nose up.
Fear: widening the eyes and raising the brows.
Anger: lowering the brows.
Remember not to strain yourself. If you try to force yourself, your body language will come off as awkward and fake.
In fact, you can do more good by trying to smile more often. When you smile, you tell your brain you’re happy (even if you’re not). In a chicken-or-the-egg situation, it soon becomes a genuine expression. So if you’re a happy chick with a grumpy face, you’ll be walking around with an “I’m everyone’s friend” grin in no time.
If you still think you’ve made a bad impression, don’t be disheartened. Push up your sleeves and rally yourself, because it’s time to get to work. Actions speak louder than words and a warm heart always trumps a “bitchface”, give it time and you will soon prove that their first impression was the wrong one.