Are you really happy your colleague got promoted? Are you really overjoyed about your in-law's visit next month?
Often, we pretend to be happy as a social lubricant. We attempt to hide fear, sadness, jealousy or any other negative emotion behind feigned happiness.
Here's the wild part: Fake happiness and real happiness look different on the face. Facial expressions, also known as "microexpressions," are the window to the soul. When someone is genuinely happy, their checks and the wrinkles on the sides of their eyes (crow's feet) appear engaged and lifted.
Can you spot the difference below?
(Credit: Science of People)
The expressions on the left reveal fake happiness. The side eye muscles are less engaged, and jaws are less visible.
Fake smiles can be spotted a mile way. At Science of People, the human behavior research lab that I lead, we put fake smiles to the test through our virtual "Body Language Quiz." In one question, we showed participants a genuine smile hidden among three fake smiles. About 87 percent of participants were able to spot the genuine smile.
Action Step: Don't try to fake it 'til you make it. Honor your authentic emotions and don't hide behind fake happiness. If you're not happy about something, it's better to let the other person know, rather than try to "indirectly" lie about it through microexpressions. The other person will instantly be able to tell exactly how you feel.
Vanessa Van Edwards is the national best-selling author of "Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People." She is lead investigator at the human behavior research lab, Science of People, and corporate workshops around the world on science-based soft skills. Follow her on Twitter
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