Understanding Emotions in Others

Understanding Emotions in Others

What’s in a face? Are you a person that notices and understands emotions in others? 

Research shows that the ability to read and decipher emotions in others can be very beneficial.  Some examples would be when you see two people arguing and there is anger present.  Of course, there are other emotions that are also easily identified, such as contempt, fear, joy, surprise, and disgust.   However, there are varying degrees of each emotion and accurately deciphering facial emotional expressions does three things:

  • Helps one to understand the intention of others
  • Facilitates appropriate responding
  • Facilitates bonding

In my family, we have this gift (and curse) that was passed down from generation to generation.  The women in my family have a distinct and unique facial canvas where their emotional state is expressed often. I have learned in my research that the scientific name for these “looks” given by my grandmother, where she never said a word but got an immediate and accurate response,  are called macro expressions. Some of these macro expressions are brief, lasting only .2 seconds, and are seemingly effortless or involuntary.  For example, raised and curved eyebrows, horizontal wrinkles across the forehead, jaw drops open, and teeth parted are all signs of a surprised person.  Anger is another emotion where you would see lips pressed firmly together, flared nostrils, or eyes in a hard stare bulging.  What’s really interesting, is where there are difficulties in the expression of facial emotional recognition there could be signs of depression, autism, or borderline personality disorders.  

If you understand the emotions of others, accurately inferring emotions from facial expressions indicate that you understand the emotions of others.  Subsequently, if understanding facial expression is a challenge, there are ways to develop “reading” other’s emotions. For more information contact us at info@leadershipworksga.com.


Dr. Murphy

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