At Mule, we have an unofficial rule stolen from an episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Titus, already shushed for reacting to what he’s reading on the library computer, expresses himself through a silent face journey.
But even his non-verbal self-expression is too disruptive for the librarian who points to a “No Face Journeys” sign.
This is a great rule for designers to adopt when talking to clients, coworkers, and other folks we interact with professionally.
I have a very expressive face, myself. I’ve been told on more than one occasion, “Your eyebrows give you away.”
Our faces communicate a lot—and not always intentionally. It’s important to remember this not just in libraries and playing poker but also when presenting work, receiving feedback, talking with clients, and interviewing users.
For most people, active listening requires a little less activity and a little more listening.
An arched eyebrow or rolled eye can shut down any conversation. A tense face can say, “I’m not listening; I’m waiting for an opening to speak.” Overly enthusiastic nodding can lead a client to believe you’ve just agreed to a change you actually think would be disastrous.
Of course, no one wants to talk to a brick wall, so it’s still important to be friendly and open. By all means, let your beautiful personality continue to shine, but stay mindful of all the levels on which you are communicating with the other people in the room.
For most people, active listening requires a little less activity and a little more listening. My personal mantra before any meeting is “pleasantly neutral, pleasantly neutral, pleasantly…” It’s a mental shot of Botox to make sure my eyebrows don’t communicate anything I don’t intend.