positive surprised look
What Does This Face Say to You?

In every professional interaction, the other person communicates on two channels. First, the other person communicates verbally what they’re thinking. Second, the other person communicates non-verbally what he or she really means.

The big insight is that in many cases, what someone says and what they mean are not always the same thing.

If you have a high IQ (intellectual intelligence), you pay attention to the words they say.

If you have a high EQ (emotional intelligence), you pay attention to what they mean but are not necessarily saying.

If you have a higher EQ, you’re picking up on a treasure trove of insightful information about the person with whom you’re interacting.

Do they like your ideas?

Are they saying “yes” to your proposal when their face is saying “hell, no”?

Are they feeling resentful towards you, even if they don’t say anything?

To be a person of influence, power, and success, these insights matter. They give you a map on how to work with other people.

There’s an overwhelming body of research that indicates people with higher emotional intelligence are far more successful in their careers and their personal lives.

Daniel Goleman’s research showed that promotions into senior executive levels are more driven by EQ than IQ.

Harvard’s Grant and Glueck 75-year+ longitudinal study on happiness determined the single biggest factor of life satisfaction at the end of one’s life is the presence of emotionally close relationships.

John Gottman’s research showed that one of the major factors of whether married couples will stay married is the husband’s receptivity to his wife’s thoughts, feelings, and influence.

Virtually every possible definition of success involves other people. 

Want a promotion? You need your boss to agree, and you need your future peers to not interfere with the promotion.

Want to start a business? You need customers to buy from you.

Want to have a happy marriage? You need to work with your spouse to co-create a great marriage.

Want to raise happy kids? You need to know what your kids are thinking and feeling that they may not necessarily be saying.

One way to improve your emotional intelligence is to become a student of body language.

In particular, I pay a great deal of attention and study people’s faces and their facial expressions.

Here’s one of many expressions I’m looking for.

It’s the look of surprise.

When someone is surprised, their eyebrows raise up. If it’s a positive surprise, they will be smiling. If it’s a negative surprise, they won’t.

When I do market research interviews testing new product ideas with potential customers, I ignore everything the other person says regarding the product I’m testing.

Instead, I’m looking to see if they give me the “positive surprise” look when I describe what my proposed product is capable of doing.

The “look” appears a split second before their verbal answers.

If their faces say, “I’m really excited and pleasantly surprised by what you just said,” I know they liked whatever idea I just proposed a lot.

If their faces say, “Meh… no biggie,” while their words say moderately good things, then I know they’re just being polite and telling me what they think I want to hear.

When I was at McKinsey, we often presented powerpoint slides as teams. I might present section 1 while a colleague would present section 2.

When my colleague was presenting, I would be busy scanning the faces and body language of the key clients in the room to assess their reactions to what was being said.

When I was presenting, my colleague would be doing the same thing.

When we got unusually positive or negative responses, we would make a mental note of what topic preceded the reaction.

Sometimes we’d say, “Hey, [Mr./Mrs.] Client, I couldn’t help but notice that you reacted to proposal A. Could you help us understand if you have a concern or issue with it?”

Other times, we’d keep our notes to ourselves and strategize offline on the next steps.

EQ skills, like paying attention to other people, are vital.

They are the key to becoming a person of greater influence, power, and success.

They also contribute to successful personal relationships and a happier life.

There are very few things in this world that improve BOTH your personal and professional lives at the same time.

Developing your emotional intelligence skills is one of those rare things that improves both.

If developing these skills is of interest to you, you might consider my class on How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to Advance Your Career.

I will be releasing How to Develop Your EQ later this month for a limited time. To join the notification list for the release and other emails about EQ, just complete the form below.

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