Often, when we’re feeling anxious, uncertain, or upset, our emotions are written all over our faces. Facial expressions and body language account for 50-70 percent of our non-verbal communications. This makes understanding what our faces and bodies are “saying” very important when talking to someone. Let’s start with facial expressions.

There are universal forms of facial expressions that are similar with most people and easy to read. Some of the emotions that are typically expressed through facial expressions are:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Surprise

Likewise, there are many other types of emotions that are not as easy to interpret. Some of the more complex emotions expressed through facial expressions are:

  • Uncertainty
  • Desire
  • Bliss
  • Frustration
  • Disapproval
  • Melancholy

All About Eyes

The eyes can reveal quite a bit of what someone is feeling which is why they are sometimes referred to as “windows to the soul.”

Eye contact: When making direct eye contact this usually indicates you are interested and focused on what the other person is saying. Not being able to hold the gaze or frequently looking away may signify that you are uncomfortable with the conversation or are trying to hide something.

Eye shift: Many experts believe that if you unconsciously look to your left you are being truthful and are just trying to find the right words to convey your message. On the other hand, if you look to your right this may indicate you are trying to think of a suitable answer to the lie you are telling.

Pupils: While environmental lighting has an effect on the dilation of someone’s pupils, so do emotions which can alter their size. For example, anger causes the pupils to contract, whereas desire generally causes them to dilate.

Blinking: Everyone naturally blinks, but rapid blinking could indicate feeling uncomfortable or uneasy. Likewise, infrequent blinking may signal that you are trying to control and hide your emotions.

Eyebrows: Our eyebrows play a more significant role in facial expression than many people realize. Raising your eyebrows indicates submission, whereas lowering them signals aggression. “Flashing” your eyebrows is done by quickly raising the brows for a split second in an initial greeting. This indicates friendliness and openness, and people will be generally more inclined to talk to you.

Getting Mouthy

Our mouths and lips can also be dead giveaways when it comes to reading facial expressions. A smile is usually associated with happiness; however, it can also be used to convey sarcasm or scorn. Other signals our mouths send out are:

Pursed lips: This usually indicates distrust, suspicion, or annoyance.

Lip biting: People often chew on their bottom lip when they are worried, anxious, stressed or insecure.

Mouth covering: Covering your mouth is typically because you want to hide an emotion – even if it’s just yawning in boredom. It’s also used to hide a smile, smirk or sneer.

There are many reasons why you may want to avoid revealing what you’re feeling, especially in a social situation or work environment. However, if you find that it’s difficult to suppress or control your emotions, talk to a mental health professional who can help you analyze your feelings in a safe environment.


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