Covering the Upper Lip
Cover you upper lip with your bottom lip, as seen in the picture and notice how you feel. Men who wear a moustache are comfortable with their upper lip being covered all of the time. It gives them a tougher, gruffer external appearance but also signals that they may be keeping their feelings closer to the vest. All of us can hide our top lip simply by putting the lower teeth and lip over the upper lip. This action is the classic signal of someone taking a stand and who is ready to fight or take on the external world. What we often overlook is the fact that their upper or emotionally expressive lip is being hidden. Hiding the upper lip signals a suppression of emotion and can often be seen on a person who does not want to reveal or talk about their feelings.
For a period of time, I ate breakfast every morning at a local cafe. Since I read every face I see, it doesn't take me long to spot the regulars. One especially interesting pair was this cantankerous old man and a small older woman who I assumed was his wife. He bellowed at the waitresses while she never made eye contact with anyone. The most interesting thing about her however, was the fact she never showed her upper lip, always keeping it covered with her bottom lip. It was a signal that was easy to understand in the context. She was holding her true feelings inside. Perhaps suppressing her feelings was her coping mechanism to survive in that relationship.
What approach might we take with someone sending this signal? Perhaps there is a simple way to reach out to a person holding so much in by just acknowledging our awareness that they have feelings even if they are hiding them.
|Covering the Bottom Lip
Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer and found yourself biting your bottom lip? When we pull our top lip over our bottom lip as shown in this picture, our emotions may be raw but we are avoiding blurting out what we are really thinking. This gesture signals that the person may be so engaged in their feelings that they don't want to or can't talk about what is going on in their external world. If you see someone doing this when you really want to know what they are thinking, it is not likely that you will find out.They are hiding their thoughts and don't want to talk about the facts.
Once again, the key in reading any interactive signal is the fact that the person sending the signal IS COMMUNICATING. You may not be hearing any words but the message is there and you can respond accordingly -- as if you actually heard the person say, "I really don't care to discuss it." Acknowledging the person and the position they seem to be taking might be all they need to open up and at least reveal why they do not want to talk about it.This way, the dialogue can continue rather than bogging down and creating feelings of frustration or even anger.
Pulling Lips In
Here we see a person who is holding in both lips and we instinctively know that they are not going to tell us anything. These pulled in lips may indicate tension, frustration or disapproval. It is a classic sign of anger and they may also be withholding the truth. The person who holds their lips in this way is not going to reveal their thoughts, much less their feelings on the topic. Another telling feature of the person in this picture is the tension in their chin. This indicates their preparedness for conflict. They are not expecting an easy time but rather they are steeling themselves to face the worst.
It is difficult to say what approach to take with someone who is so unyielding and seemingly ready for a fight. Perhaps acknowledging that this is not a good time for them but that you are open to hear them out when they are ready to talk. Taking this position could relieve some of the moment's pressure. Feeling understood and accepted in a time of stress or crisis is almost always appreciated and can create a shift in the other person's position.
Catching the Theta Wave
We humans have evolved an incredible ability to read faces. Not only can we recognize one person out of almost seven billion possibilities, we even use different brainwaves when we are interpreting what faces are telling us. Recent scientific research from the University of Glasgow in Scotland was published on May 18, 2011 in the journal, Public Library of Science Biology. It reports that scientist have discovered that when we are trying to discern something about a person's eyes, our brain uses beta brainwaves. On the other hand, when we are trying to elicit meaning from a person's mouth, we shift into using theta brainwaves.
As you were reading this article and looking at the accompanying pictures did you notice your brain make this subtle shift? According to Professor Schyns who conducted the experiment, " It is a bit like brainwaves coding different radio stations at different frequency bands." Professor Schyns predicts that there is a huge potential for using this information to develop brain-computer interfaces.
Who knows, in the future every smart phone may include an app for reading faces. I wonder if they will allow them in the World Championship of Poker?.