It has been said that body language makes up about 55% of our communication while  our tone of voice comprises 38% and our actual verbal  words comprise  7%. ( The 7% Rule).

With everyone using Zoom these days, I would suspect that facial expressions are becoming more and more important. As it is difficult to see much of someone on Zoom that is below the shoulders, we cannot really “read” the other person’s entire body language. As a result, we may tend to rely more and more on facial expressions.

A  recent blog post in the Harvard PONS noted the obvious:” When we’re deciding whether to trust a counterpart, his facial expressions matter a great deal.” (“Body Language in Negotiation: How Facial Expressions Impact  a Negotiation” by PON Staff, October 20, 2020).

In a study conducted by Jeroen Stouten of the University of Leuven, Belgium, and David De Cremer of the Rotterdam School of Management, the Netherlands,  these researchers

asked undergraduate participants to play an economic game that involved deciding how much to gamble on an opponent’s trustworthiness. A participant who took the biggest gamble possible would earn 10 euros if her opponent was trustworthy but would earn nothing if the opponent was untrustworthy. Some participants were shown a picture of a smiling opponent, and others were shown a frowning, angry-looking opponent. (The same person was depicted in both pictures, and unbeknownst to the participants, they were simply playing against a computer.) Some of the participants read a message in which their opponent (either smiling or frowning) stated that he wanted to cooperate in the upcoming game. Other participants read a message in which  the same smiling or frowning opponent said he wanted to claim as much as he could for himself. (Id.)

As one might expect, the researchers found that those participants who were “happy” were seen as more honest,  trustworthy and reliable than those “angry” participants. As a result, the participants trusted the “happy” person and relied more on his message in deciding on how much to gamble. The researchers also found that while the participants did  not “trust” the “angry” person, they found him intimidating and so made relatively high offers to him despite the lack of trust. (Id.)

The moral is to be happy or to at least have a happy facial expression when negotiating if you want someone to deem you trustworthy, honest and reliable. The flip side is to beware of “happy faces”; they may simply be a mask for what is really going on beneath the surface much like a Trojan Horse.

… Just Something to Think About.


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