I was going to share this with some friends, but then I realized it would make a great public service announcement. I have recently noticed that there are a lot of people who aren’t comfortable standing up for themselves, or negotiating difficult interactions. So, I present – the only two facial expressions you’ll ever need to manage difficult situations.
Expression one – the Haughty Stare:
You’re minding your own business, at the gym, or at a restaurant, or shopping, and someone insults you covertly. Overt insults are actually easier to deal with because you can be aggressive back with no worry that they’ll pretend that they were just “helping” while getting in their digs.
It’s the covert ones you need to watch out for. Examples from the covert insult Hall of Fame include: “Oh, I could never wear such interesting outfits.” “You shouldn’t bother with that guy/girl – they like successful people.” (Really, I heard a variation of this not too long ago.) “Women really aren’t that good at analysis/technology/jokes.”
The correct response to comments like these is the Haughty Stare. To achieve the Haughty Stare, do the following:
Arrange your features so you’re neither smiling nor frowning. Adopt a neutral expression. Maintain eye contact with the offender. Then, microscopically lift your chin and eybrows. The effect you’re going for is to look like you just caught the barest whiff of an unpleasant smell. This might stop the offender cold. If not, lift your chin and eyebrows just a hair more, while still maintaining eye contact. If this round doesn’t stop them, lift chin and eyebrows again, while widening your eyes ever so slightly. From there, continue microscopic lifting and widening until the person stops in flustered confusion.
Once they stop you can reward them with a tight smile before you move on. The advantage of this response as opposed to confrontation is that a confrontation gives them the opportunity to react to your response, thereby deflecting attention from their offensive behavior. If you fix them with the Haughty Stare, they have nothing to sprout drama from and will be forced to just shut up. Note that the Haughty Stare is serious artillery and should be used judiciously.
Expression two – Giraffes:
Someone’s trying, either purposely or inadvertently, to suck you in to their drama. They’re not trying to insult you so much as they’re trying to divert your attention in the service of their dysfunction. I’ve found that it’s useless to argue with people when they do this – no good comes from trying to get a drama llama to see reason. But, for such a person, the Haughty Stare is overkill. You’re not trying to eviscerate them, you just want them to take their histrionics elsewhere.
The best response to such a person is to present them with the slick Teflon surface of neutrality. Give them nothing for them to grab onto so their only choice is to move along and find someone else to annoy.
With credit to Allie Brosh, arrange your face as if you’re thinking: “Huh. I never knew that about giraffes,” as you utter your neutral response.
Annoying person: “Why does everything always happen to me?!?!”
Annoying person: “Don’t you think that woman at the grocery store who bought cake with food stamps should be arrested?”
You: “Hmm …”
Annoying person: Gay marriage is ruining our children!”
You: “Hmm … no.”
Try it – it’s fun!