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Is Your Facial Expression Sending the Wrong Message?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Your resume is polished, your interview suit is pressed, and you’re excited to go meet with a civilian recruiter. But what if your facial expression sends the message that you’re disinterested, worried or angry?

Many people – civilians and veterans alike – suffer from an angry resting face. This happens when you are concentrating or thinking and your face displays grumpiness or disgust. It’s likely you aren’t feeling those things, but people looking at or talking to you perceive those feelings by reading your face. I had a client who’s boss repeatedly asked her, “Is everything okay?” because she always looked angry or upset. It’s simply the way she looked when she was concentrating: her mouth curled down in the corners, her brow furrows and her forehead tensed.

Your body language and facial expressions send messages about how you feel. It’s been said that non-verbal communication is sometimes more important than the actual words you use. For these reasons, it’s important to fix this issue. Some suggestions I offer clients:

  • In your office, place a small mirror near your computer monitor. Then, when you glance at the mirror, you can see your reflection and remind yourself to relax your face to a more pleasant position.
  • On the top of the notepad you take into meetings, write the initials “SML” to remind yourself to smile… or at least not frown. Writing out “SMILE” might be too obvious if someone sees it.
  • When someone asks you, “Are you okay?” because you appear angry or upset reply, “Oh, yes. Concentrating on work,” with a smile.
  • In meetings where others are presenting information, consciously nod in agreement, take notes on your notepad, focus on relaxing the outer corners of your eyes, and pay close attention to making eye contact with everyone in the room. These subtle actions will reassure others in the room that you are present, open to new information and approachable.

Ask people around you if you might be sending the wrong message with your facial expressions. Whether your face is naturally pleasant, or not, the message your body language conveys is critical to your personal brand.

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.