Facial Expressions in Nonverbal Communication: Importance & Explanation

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  • 0:02 The Communication Process
  • 1:21 Facial Expressions
  • 2:43 Some Examples
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Davis

Bethany has taught college business courses and has a master's degree in organizational and human resource development.

Facial expressions are a very important part of communication. Though nothing is said verbally, there is much to be understood about the messages we send and receive through the use of nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions.

The Communication Process

Communication involves both verbal, or spoken, and nonverbal, or unspoken, ways of making sure our message is heard. When communicating nonverbally with others, we often use facial expressions, which are subtle signals of the larger communication process. A simple smile can indicate our approval of a message, while a scowl might signal displeasure or disagreement. Understanding facial expressions and their meaning is an important part of communication.

Communication involves two or more people exchanging verbal and nonverbal cues to reach a point of shared understanding. The communication process involves both a sender, who is sending a message, and a receiver, who is hearing and/or seeing the message.

This process can be complicated by many factors, such as parties who are trying to communicate while speaking different languages. Additionally, we both send and receive messages through personal screens, like experience, faith, values, cultural background, gender, and education, which can make it more difficult to understand one another. Often, these screens lead us to make assumptions about the message being communicated. We also might make assumptions by observing, analyzing, and assigning meaning to the facial expressions of others.

Facial Expressions

In today's business world, much of our communication takes place via electronic methods, like email and text messages. Oftentimes, it's hard to understand the context or meaning behind a message that's received electronically. But in person, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues boost our understanding.

Facial expressions include smiling, frowning, eye rolling, making eye contact, scowling, and appearing bored or interested. Other facial expressions might indicate excitement or even shock, like opening one's eyes or mouth widely. Winking could signal that we're joking about a remark we made, or even flirting with the person to whom we are speaking! And raising our eyebrows might communicate that we're surprised or that we don't believe what we're hearing.

The interpretations assigned to facial expressions vary greatly, so we need to be careful when using them. Many of our expressions are ones we're accustomed to from our own cultural, familial, and business backgrounds and experiences. Because we understand facial expressions differently, we can easily misunderstand the intent behind such nonverbal cues.

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