You almost never have to wonder what I’m thinking or feeling. It’s practically written all over my face.

I’ve worked at keeping my expression neutral when emotions run high, with mixed results at best. I may be able to keep my mouth shut, but my disbelief, disappointment or anger are generally apparent on my face.

One problem is my resting face, which tends toward thoughtful or even morose. (You can Google resting face and get a plethora of humorous posts about the male and female versions of this somber facial expression.) I can’t tell you how often people say, “You seem like you have a lot on your mind.” Well, I do usually have a lot rolling around in my noggin. Unfortunately, even if it’s just deciding what to have for dinner, my features tend to scream, “I am overwhelmed!”

When I am stressed or frustrated, my normal cranky face transforms into my you-have-GOT-to-be-kidding-me-you-idiot face. This is clearly not conducive to productive relationships at home or at work.

So I’ve done some research, and there are two schools of thought:

  1. Stop feeling the feelings.
  2. Feelings are fine, but don’t let them show on your face.

I know I can’t eliminate all of my negative emotions, yet I can reduce stress. Taking a walk when I feel tense, practicing regular meditation and taking care of my body are all good strategies.

As for not letting my feelings show, the first strategy is to notice the initial signs of irritation or anxiety. Humanergy’s David Wheatley recommends two things – recognize your triggers and then do something about them. When I’m more in touch with my body and its cues about my mental state, I understand that when my heartbeat speeds up, it’s an early warning that I’m emotionally activated. This knowledge creates a choice space. I can remain calm by choosing a variety of actions –  take a break, breathe deeply or simply listen without judgment to what the other person is saying.

Creating a choice space is key. Once I have paused to notice what’s going on in my body and mind, I have an opportunity to make my choice a conscious one.

Wearing my heart on my sleeve (or my emotions on my face) does have a good side. People around me seldom have to wonder what I’m feeling. The breakthrough realization here is that I have control of this and can choose my expression, no matter what the circumstance.

Have a tip for those who lack a poker face? Message us privately or share it below.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash