by Melissa Moore
Whether you're addressing a room full of people or talking to somebody one-on-one, making a presentation can be a stressful experience as it is, and the behavior of your audience can throw you off your game completely, if you don't know how to correctly interpret it.
The truth is, people wear their personality style on their faces, which means their expressions and body language say much more about what they're like and what's important to them, than about what they think of you.
That information can be extremely helpful if you're looking to persuade, excite or inform your audience, or even if you just want to assure yourself that your message is, in fact, being heard.
Want to be a more confident and effective communicator? Here are the six facial expressions you must be able to read, and how to connect with the personalities behind them to maintain your momentum:
1. The Blank Slate
What they're doing: Staring at you expressionless
What you're thinking: Do they think I'm an idiot? Do they hate me?
What's really going on: You have the ear of an Organizer. This logical, organized, responsible personality type values information and takes the processing of it seriously. When listening, they're in deep data-intake mode. It's not time for expression.
What to say to get back on track: "Does that make sense to you?" Address this style in a direct way, and give them credit for their thinking and analysis, which is what they value most. A brief nod or crisp "yep" will let you know they're with you and want you to keep going.
2. The Furrowed Brow
What they're doing: Frowning at you intensely
What you're thinking: Do they disagree with me? Have I offended them?
What's really going on: You've got an Advisor in your midst. People with this dedicated, observant, conscientious personality type processes information through the lens of their values and beliefs. They're evaluating what you're saying, comparing it to their very clear and closely-held concepts of how things should be.
What to say to get back on track: "Are you ok with that so far?" Acknowledge the value of this type's opinion, and let them know that there will be a point at which they will be able to express it. They'll appreciate it – and very likely will deliver their opinion to you when the time comes.
3. The Fidgeter
What they're doing: Glancing around the room, making expressive faces, shifting in their seat, perhaps making an inappropriate comment or joke
What you're thinking: Are they taking this seriously?
What's really going on: Meet the Original! This spontaneous, creative, playful, personality type seeks contact and stimulation. Tactile activity helps them concentrate, so what can look like distractedness to the outside observer — tapping a foot, clicking a pen — is actually an indication that you do have their attention. That comment or joke? It's their way of saying, "This is interesting, but you don't have to be so serious!"
What to say to get back on track: "You good?" A quick, casual check-in resonates with and delights this style. Don't be surprised if you get a big thumbs up, exaggerated OK sign or an animated "I'm cool!" in response.
4. The Daydreamer
What they're doing: Staring out the window, gazing at the ceiling … looking anywhere but at you
What you're thinking: Am I boring them? Are they listening?
What's really going on: People with this calm, imaginative, reflective personality style – we call them Dreamers – need isolation to think and process, and will withdraw into themselves to get it if necessary. If they're looking at you, they can't really listen to you. To do both requires too much of this style's energy.
What to say to get back on track: "Do you have a question?" Dreamers respond to clear, direct inquiry that recognizes their calm, reflective nature. They may indeed have a question for you. But even if they don't, their response will let you know that they've been tuned in to you the whole time.
5. The Anticipator
What they're doing: Looking at you expectantly
What you're thinking: What do they want me to say? Are they about to get up and leave?
What's really going on: Introducing the Doer. This adaptable, charming, persuasive personality style is all about action. They're listening to you, alright, but they're doing so with an ear for their next move. They're looking for opportunity.
What to say to get back on track: "See where we're going?" (with energy) Invite them to be part of the activity, part of the direction. They aren't looking to be part of the group; they want to be part of the action – of making it happen.
6. The Smiley Face
What they're doing: Smiling broadly right at you, nodding along with everything you say
What you're thinking: Are they getting this? Do they really understand and support me this enthusiastically?
What's really going on: You're face-to-smiley-face with a Connector. This compassionate, sensitive, warm personality style is a natural nurturer. Smiles and nods are their way of letting you know that they value you — and that they think you're doing a great job.
What to say to get back on track: "Are you ok?" or "Do you feel good about this?" A simple and genuine inquiry into their well-being confirms for this style that you care about them. Their enthusiastic affirmation will assure you of their attention.
Memorize these expressions and the true meaning behind them, and you'll be prepared to conquer any size audience with confidence and (personality) style.
Visit our predictive behavioral routing webpage to understand how we use these analyses in helping improve customer experiences.
About the Author Melissa Moore Melissa Moore is founder of Moore Insights Group, a consultancy supporting companies’ efforts to increase employee engagement, productivity and leadership effectiveness. MIG leverages personality as a unique window into human behavior and understanding why people do what they do and their preferred communication channel for productive and effective interactions.
Prior to her current venture, Melissa was Chief People Officer and Senior Personality Expert at Mattersight, the pioneer in Predictive Behavioral Routing, acquired by NICE in 2018.