Facial Expressions Chart: Learn What People are Thinking

It’s amazing how much we communicate without ever saying a word. The expressions you make on your face convey exactly what you’re thinking, from the smile showing your happiness, or a frown indicating your disapproval. Sometimes, your facial expressions reveal what you really think about a subject, before you even say anything. Think back to when a friend said they’re doing “fine”. Did you believe them? If you did, perhaps you should check out this course, which covers how to detect liars using their facial expressions. You’ll be surprised with what you will learn!

There are a whole range of expressions, we all make, that let people around you know what’s going on inside your head. If you have trouble with being aware of the expressions you make, try this course on non verbal communication. It teaches you how to master what your body language is saying, so you’re in full control of what you’re saying, no matter how you’re saying it.

Your facial expressions are also a universal communication method, and the way they are used is quite similar all throughout the world. If you’ve struggled at this before, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to read someone’s facial expression and find out what they’re truly feeling. This course is a great way to get started at understanding what is really going on with your friends.

Reading peoples facial expressions can be tricky, but the first step is to focus on the basic emotions. Do you know the expression people make when they lie?

Think about it.

This is actually a trick question, because there’s no single facial expression that will help you determine if someone is lying to you. But what it’s great for is highlighting a fact most beginners fail to realize, you can’t always associate a specific meaning to a facial expression. Because we don’t use expressions the same way that we do words, there is no specific meaning for every expression, only general ones.

The best place to start is to think about the most common emotions. There are actually seven which have been scientifically demonstrated to associate with specific facial expressions. The first step in reading someone’s face is to teach yourself to recognize all of the micro expressions, the small changes that indicate what someone is feeling inside.


facial expressions chartThis is instantly recognizable, with the corners of the mouth upturned in a smile. You should notice a difference between genuine and forced happiness, in social situations there will be many people acting the part. You can tell if happiness is being forced when there is no wrinkling, puffiness or muscle movement around the eyes. You can’t fake a genuine smile!


facial expressions chart

Another easy emotion to spot, when a person is really sad their eyebrows will go up and together, and the corners of their mouth will point down. This emotion is almost impossible to fake without training and knowledge of the right muscle movements. If you learn to spot genuine sadness you can uncover when people are trying to emotionally manipulate you. The key is in the eyebrows, and remember that it is very easy to shed real tears, but genuine sadness is hard to fake.




facial expressions chart

This is an instinctual response, as humans are hard-wired to be alert at all times. This emotion always occurs fast, as someone responds to a stimulus that is exciting, novel or unexpected. Although it occurs only briefly, it is very clear. Their mouth will drop, and open, as their eyebrows are raised. Eyes widening are also a sign of surprise, and the entire emotion flicks past in about 1/5th of a second. If it lasts longer than this, it’s a good indication the emotion is being exaggerated, or faked entirely.



facial expressions chart

This emotion is especially important for people, as it tells us when situations aren’t good. It’s most common in the faces of people who have been caught in the act of something they shouldn’t be doing, or have been beaten. Most people’s initial reaction to fear is to freeze, as the survival instinct in all of us is to stay still and draw as little attention to yourself as possible. The biggest indicator of fear is widened eyes, with the lower eyelids tense as the upper eyelids are raised. Their eyebrows will be raised and pulling together, while the corners of the mouth are stretched and pulled back. Excessive swallowing is also an indicator a person is feeling fearful.


facial expressions chart

An emotion we’ve all felt at some stage, and is particularly easy to spot. When you see someone looking at you with this expression, you have a good idea of what you’re in for. Look for eyes that are narrowed and almost squinting, which narrows the persons field of vision. This is where the phrase “seeing red” comes from. Their lips will be stretched thin and tight, with flaring nostrils and eyebrows pushed down. Spot all of these signs and you’ll know they’re more than a little bit angry.



facial expressions chart

This emotion is often confused with anger, and is more complicated to identify. It has much heavier implications in social situations, as it stems from a basic human need to avoid unpleasant smells, poison, and foods. It’s very hard to hide this emotion, as the nose will wrinkle and people will often squint as they react with this feeling. Their top lip will be curled and raised, and in extreme cases you’ll see their teeth, as well as their mouth shifting in an odd way.




facial expressions chart

This remains one of the easiest emotions to spot, and is visible on the face as a kind of “half” smile. You’ll notice that a single corner of the mouth is drawn inwards and up, which relates to an extreme dislike (more so than that of disgust or anger). The feeling being portrayed is that the subject that has raised the feeling is inferior, worthless or lacking in some way. It’s one of the most dangerous emotions, and is most often the one that aligns with hate.

Once you start to recognize all of the micro expressions, practise looking for them in the people that you see every day. You’ll need to establish a baseline, which is what the person looks like when they are feeling no emotions. Their face should be relaxed, and they respond normally, to normal questions. Try to spot what happens in their face as they’re telling the truth, and feeling the emotions above. Once you can picture them in your mind you’re ready for the next step.

Beware the problem of incorrectly reading someone’s emotion when you don’t see all of the signs. Just because someone’s eyebrows are raised, doesn’t mean they are surprised. They might be showing partial surprise, raising them in fear, or using their eyebrows to accentuate different parts of their speech. The only way you’ll get more accurate is to practice, look for changes across the entire face, and pay attention to what you don’t see, as much as you’re considering what you do see.

Now you can recognize the basics, it’s time to take the lesson into the real world. People never feel just a single emotion. People, like our own lives, are complex, and its common that they feel a mix of several different emotions at any one time. When this happens, it’s called an emotional blend. A person who really hates turtlenecks but is forced to wear one may experience both disgust (at what they’re wearing) and anger (towards the situation). Think about the context as you look to peoples facial expressions, and always ask yourself if you’re looking at a single emotion, or a complex mix of emotions. If you are interested to take your skills even further, check out this post and learn the techniques that mind readers use to determine insight about their targets.

Building on the facial expressions, the rest of a person’s body is also a fantastic indicator of the feelings that are going on inside. When you’re trying to get non-verbal communication out of a subject, what the rest of their body is saying can be just as informative as the expression on their face. You can also use this to determine if someone is lying to you, which is covered in detail in this course. This is a key skill to have, because when you can instantly read someone’s expressions, you know what they’re thinking and this determines how you’ll react. Reacting correctly is the difference between a socially satisfying moment, and being stuck awkwardly in a situation where you’d rather be anywhere else in the world.

Knowing what people are thinking, before it has been said, is key to understanding the interactions with the people around you. Master this, and you’ll never be socially unaware again.