Imagine a disease offering clues to how we read emotions!
Michele Solis in the July 4, 2011 online issue of Scientific American Mind magazine writes about the connection. Experiments show that we actually feel the moods that others express with “micro expressions. “ Micro expressions are primarily facial expressions that are so quick that we do not consciously see them.
Micro clues in others facial expressions and gestures light up areas in our brain. They light up the areas that process those feelings. We do the same to others. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience in February bolsters this idea. Observers watched rare individuals with “mirror-touch synesthesia.” When watching another individual being touched, these people actually feel a touch on the same part of their own body.
Ah, so what? This has tremendous implications for communication, speaking, listening and signaling. Look at the mood communication. The micro signals communicate directly with the areas in our brain that feel those moods. They bypass the areas of our brain that perform the logical interpretation. If the signals are sad and the talk is happy, we sense something wrong.
What this suggests is that we are not very good at fooling people. When our signals or our words contradict our micro expressions people see it. A poker face is not the answer. A poker face tries to shut down the micro signals. The contradiction remains. The signals do not support the spoken mood. Flat monotonous speech accompanied by no signals says there is no feeling here. In a normal person there always is some feeling.
This suggests a couple of things. First, and most important, we ought to tell the truth since we are not wired to lie well. Second, we should be alert to contradiction between what is spoken and what is signaled. Third, we should be alert to contradiction between the slow obvious signals and the mood we are actually feeling. Fourth, we ought to find a way to fix sending sad signals when we are feeling sad, angry signals when we are feeling angry, etc.
There is a solution. The first step is considering whether you want to share your misery. If you do want to share the misery, say so! Say, “You know, I feel really bad today.”
If you don’t want to share the misery, there is an answer. Get over it! You can use the reverse effect of having the signals create the mood. You can change your personal signals that you can control. You can smile. It lights up the brain area that feels good moods. You can speak cheerful greetings. They light up your brain as well as those you greet. This does not remove the problem causing your mood. It breaks your concentration on it.
I have a suggestion about using this method with an extra benefit. Do the smiling and greeting that is an effort to change your mood in public. This lets you get by with brief smiles. You cheerful greetings don’t require more conversation. You avoid a conversation in which you have conflicting moods until you shift yourself into a good mood. Bonus, you brighten many others’ days on your path to a better mood.

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