Is that a b*tchface, or are you just unhappy to see me?
Known as the “bitchface,” this facial expression has gained public attention with the help of Chicago-based blogger Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Mag article ‘How to Bitchface’.
In the article, Gevinson jokingly described her go-to facial expression as a, “beauty essential for any true lady” because it allows her to non-verbally express her disdain for any stupid and/or frustrating people she may run into.
Gevinson also provided a number of variations which can be applied to her surly mug to further inform others of her malcontent with a certain situation. But as entertaining as her tips and tricks may be, this sort of non-verbal cue can be seen as a problem for those like Mariko Morohshi, who naturally and unknowingly default to a displeased scowl.
Morohshi, a stock person at clothes retailer Dynamite, said that her normally serious expression elicits both comments about her presumed grumpiness and requests for her to smile more often.
“I get a lot of comments like, ‘You should smile’ at work, and people think that I’m angry or something, but that’s just my face,” she said. “Usually, people think I’m a bitch, and that’s not the case.”
To combat the mixed signals that her ambiguous facial expression sends, Morohshi said that she frequently has to correct curious onlookers and assure them that she is, in fact, not upset at all. Her communication conundrum may stem from the huge role which body language plays in our daily interactions and their perceived meanings.
According to Calgary-based registered psychologist Dr. Nathan Cobb, “how we communicate with our bodies and our tone of voice carries more weight in terms of how we communicate than the actual words we use.”
Cobb estimated that 90 per cent of what we say is communicated with our body language and tone of voice, while only 10 per cent of our message can be derived from the words we speak.
This, he said, extends to our facial expressions and how people perceive them because, “the body speaks its mind and we have this assumption that how a person feels is reflected in their expression.”
For those plagued with chronically surly expressions, he suggested monitoring both the way you present yourself to others and the reactions your non-verbal cues elicit in others.
“Your body language is always communicating something, whether you’re aware of it or not, and if it’s not what you want to communicate, you need to change it.”
For Elizabeth Cassidy, a customer service associate at AeroTek, her encounters with such negative-seeming faces are off-putting because her customer service background has taught her to constantly smile – an ethic that has become second nature to her.
In addition to her professional training, Cassidy said that she is adept at reading people’s faces and said that a bitchface to her seems, “really standoffish. If I see someone with that sort of scowl, it makes me not want to interact with them very much because it puts up a fake barricade between me and them – sort of like they’ll shut me down no matter what I say.”
Though she suspects that many who display this grumpy glower do it unconsciously, her past experiences have taught her that the majority of those who exhibit this facial faux pas are genuinely nice people who simply suffer from a sour default expression.
“Sometimes that’s just how your face falls…but maybe just be cognizant of it, and don’t take offence if someone asks you what’s wrong every once in a while,” she suggested.