As we are all aware, every conversation, not to mention every negotiation, has much more going on under the surface than is easily seen by observers. Detecting deception, both manipulative and unconscious is part of what makes great negotiators outstanding. Dr. David Matsumoto specializes in understanding facial expression and trains negotiators, sales professionals, and leaders of all stripes how to notice and respond to the barely visible signals that often reveal what’s going on under the surface. Listen to this conversation. It’s fascinating to realize that all of us can become skilled at this nuanced but powerfully effective form of observation.
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Outline of This Episode
- [0:35] Dr. David Matsumoto is a jewel and we’re honored to have him on the show
- [2:15] The amazing career and research of Dr. Matsumoto
- [5:05] Facial expressions: an overview of the less-obvious and what may be meant
- [8:05] How can we differentiate meaningful facial expressions from non-meaningful ones
- [11:57] Is the brain communicating in the face to express what our words are not?
- [17:01] Are there ways to ensure your face and words are congruent?
- [22:17] Do cultures change the micro-expressions?
- [24:37] What you can do right now to improve your facial or non-verbal observation
Every face tells a story, even when it doesn’t think it is
David explains that the face is one of the most complex signal-systems in the human body. It contains 23 muscles (plus or minus), each one able to move independently of the others and in different intensities and symmetries. This amazing integration leads to thousands of combinations and expressions the face can produce.
In addition, the face is used for many different things: emotional expressions, signs of cognition, emblematic information (non-verbal indications such as acknowledgments, etc.), chewing, eating, talking/articulation, and various idiosyncratic things individuals do. When we can notice these things and rightly couple them with other things happening in the conversation, we have what David calls “data superiority” in any negotiation.
Understanding facial expressions: Where to start
As a negotiator, your goal in understanding the facial expressions of those you are negotiating with is to get additional data about the individuals you are talking with. This enables you to better understand their goals and words to work towards a solution that can satisfy their desires while still fulfilling yours. When you can understand the specific configurations of the face and focus on them, you will be able to notice them and interpret them with increasing accuracy.
David says this level of observation comes from deliberate observation, noticing both macro-expressions and micro-expressions that the face produces. One of the best places to begin is by observing yourself through the use of video. The next time you have a conversation, set up your phone to record yourself. You’ll be surprised at the wide variation of things your face does during the interaction. When you’re aware of your expressions and how they either demonstrate or reveal what you were feeling at the time, you’ll be able to understand how the same is true of those you deal with in negotiations.
Facial expressions on macro and micro levels
The macro-expressions made by the human face are the ones that demonstrate typical human emotion and reaction. Smiles express happiness. Frowns express sadness. There’s nothing complicated about these and most of us can discern them fairly easily. Where it becomes difficult is when you add the layer of micro-expressions, the one-fifth to one-third of a second expressions that flit across our view when interacting with an individual.
These are signs of something concealed or not willingly expressed. They are signs of something else going on in the person’s mind. It may not be a matter of deception or deceit, they could be simply showing an inconsistency between what you are hearing and what they are really feeling or thinking. As a negotiator, it’s your task to decide, “Do I want to know what that tiny expression is about?” You ask this question because it may not be related to what you’re dealing with.
During this conversation, David explains the two neuro-pathways that control facial muscles and why they are important to understand for negotiators. He also explains how you can learn to ensure that your face and brain are congruent by reviewing your behavior through the use of video. He also explains why it’s important that you learn to be deeply observant of others’ behavior. In doing so, you’ll become more aware of yourself.
The secret is in coupling facial expression with the entire package
David recommends that negotiators learn to pay complete attention to what’s being said and expressed by the people they deal with in negotiations. Stop fiddling with your phone. Stop taking notes, even. Direct your full powers of observation to the conversation. It’s the only way to get all the data that’s being shown to you. You also need to learn the variety of configurations possible in the face (he has courses to teach you how in a remarkably short time).
But in addition to active observation and learning the nuances of facial expression, learn to couple what you see with what David calls, “the entire package.” If you think you witnessed a flash of irritation in the person’s face and then it disappeared, look to other things. Has the volume of their words elevated? Have their words become more choppy and forceful? Are they tapping the tabletop? When you can integrate all the things you see, you’ll be able to put the true power of observing facial expressions to work in ways that matter to your negotiation outcomes.
Connect with David Matsumoto
- David’s website: https://www.davidmatsumoto.com/
- www.Humintell.com (great courses from David you should use)
- David’s organization on LinkedIn
- Follow HumIntel on Twitter: @Humintell
Connect With Mark
- Follow Negotiations Ninja on Twitter: @NegotiationPod
- Connect with Mark on LinkedIn
- Follow Negotiations Ninja on LinkedIn
- Connect on Instagram: @NegotiationPod