Years ago, I had a blind date set up by one of those expensive, exclusive match making agencies where rich men turn to find arm candy. It wasn’t a good pairing on any level. The gentleman showed up looking like the stereotypical gangster straight out of a B-grade movie with gold around his neck, a bad suit, and his shirt unbuttoned way too far down his chest. Even though I kept commanding myself not to, I couldn’t stop stealing glances at the hair plugs half way down his forehead . While my mouth was saying cordial things, I’m sure my body language was telling a very different story.
Did you know that while it takes your brain mere seconds to interpret what someone is saying vocally, the brain takes about only 200 milliseconds to gather information from facial expressions. In tests, the amygdala, the primitive brain region associated with sounding the danger alarm, responded vigorously even when researchers flashed photos so fast that subjects couldn’t tell consciously what they saw. For our ancestors, the amygdala being able to access stimuli really quickly might prevent someone from being a predator’s lunch .
According to Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske, in their book The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success, a person constantly, unconsciously makes “micro-expressions” which are so fast that the person isn’t aware of and can’t control them.
These nonverbal cues convey emotions and ideas, oftentimes, more powerfully than words, and are the first form of communication learned and used by infants. There are about half a dozen facial expressions that are recognized universally. I mean, we all know what pissed off looks like in any culture, right? Same with happy or sad.
Even after we learn to speak and understand language, the brain’s right hemisphere reads these nonverbal cues to assess situations . Being able to accurately interpret this information and respond authentically and appropriately is crucial to a healthy sense of self-awareness, one of the key ingredients to a winner’s brain according to Brown and Fenske.
In their book, they cover eight traits, “win factors,” great minds use to achieve success. which are backed by neuroscience. The win factors are traits anyone can develop to create a “failure-resistant” brain.
Possessing a highly evolved sense of self-awareness allows someone to assess interactions with others more accurately and to be perceived as more confident and authentic. A person with a healthy self-awareness can also take advantage of their talents and honestly understand and accept their limitations. In the book, the authors define self-awareness as the ability to “know thyself.”
All of us maintain a public persona to a certain extent, and it’s absolutely necessary. For example, putting on a happy face at work when you feel anything but happy or being polite to a blind date when you really want to run the other way. In a winning sense of self-awareness these two personas are fairly similar most of the time or, at the least, there is a conscious understanding of how, why, and when they are different. Also, a winner’s brain tends to have a very stable sense of self regardless of the circumstances.
These two selves used to be quite different in me. I used to have one personality I showed to my significant other, my parents, and the public. She was the people pleaser who didn’t make waves under any circumstances. The other me was always fuming mad because she never said what she thought, wanted, or needed. I found it exhausting and depressing to keep up that charade all the time.
Now, what you see is what you get, like it or not. Many do not. And, that’s OK.
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/philliecasablanca/