Wednesday, April 27, 2022

About Face: What Your Expressions May or May Not Be Saying About You


(Left:  RBF,  Right, Neutral)

“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.”- Janet Lane

If you have ever seen Kristen Stewart from the Twilight franchise on the red carpet or in an interview, she has an expression on her face that lacks much movement or change.   If her expression could speak it would say, “I’d rather be anywhere in the world than right here with you!” It ranges from a look of unnerving disinterest to a look of utter annoyance.    

In 2013, a meme took over the Internet giving the expression, or lack thereof, a name—Resting *itch Face (RBF).   An unflattering description that is usually (unfairly) assigned to women, RBF can be off-putting particularly when it comes to first impressions.   

Many inflicted with RBF complain that they are being wrongly judged and in most cases that is in fact true.  But regardless of intent, RBF makes others feel as if they are the ones being judged.   RBF is different from a purposeful frown, scowl, or eye roll because it has no purpose, it’s at rest.  If RBF was to have a twin, it would be the monotone voice due to its lack of variation and presentation void of emotion.  So how do you know if you are inflicted with RBF?   

In my very best Jeff Foxworthy, the following is a list of RBF signs you need to be aware of:

1.  If you are constantly being asked if you are okay or if you are mad about something, you may have RBF. 

2.  If people seem uncomfortable about approaching you, you may have RBF.

3.  If when you try to be funny and it’s received with a “Are you being serious?” you may have RBF.

4.  If you are constantly told, “You should smile,” you may have RBF.

5.  If you are told, “I thought you hated me when we first met,” you may have RBF.

6.  If you constantly win playing cards due to your “poker face,” you may have RBF.

Individuals with RBF are often frowned upon by management (get it, frowned upon?) and iced out (ya, I can’t help myself, it’s a gift) by coworkers.  They can be deemed unfriendly, aloof and even cold—which is usually far from the truth.  But as we all know, perception is a powerful thing.  In fact, we make judgements about people based on many outward factors.  Once an opinion is formed, it is difficult to change.   Sadly, RBF can over shadow an otherwise efficient and competent employee.   

Interestingly, many people with RBF either don’t or won’t recognize it, excuse it as being a part of their personality, or know it, but don’t understand the importance of its consequences. 

Anyone own a teen?  If there was a posterchild for RBF, it would be found on a teenager.  My daughter was inflicted with RBF from the age of 12 to around 18.   She would come home and complain that she didn’t understand why girls didn’t like her.  Careful not to ignite a firestorm of “you just DON”T get it mom!” followed by the spin, march and slam of the bedroom door, I suggested perhaps she was coming off as unfriendly and she should smile more.  Guess what happened?  Yep.  “Mom, you DON’T understand!”   Spin…  March…  Slam…   Thankfully after years in customer service, she learned the importance of what her face may be putting out there in the world.

Now that you know what RBF is and you think you may have it, what is the cure?  The following are a few tips:

1.  The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem.  If you answered “yes” to one or more of the RBF signs, you may have RBF.

2.  Ask someone.  I know this may be difficult, but ask someone you believe will be completely honest with you.  If you really want to change, you need to know the truth.

3.  Record yourself during a zoom call or meeting and watch it back.  If you were an outsider, how would you view you?

4.  Be aware.  Are you actively listening?  Are you engaged?  Are you paying attention?  What is your face saying?

5.  Put effort into your expressions.  Even at rest, be mindful of your eyes and mouth.   Smile with your eyes and keep a slight smile on your face?  Lean forward when someone is talking and nod your head at times to show you are listening.  Practice in the mirror if you have to.

Teamwork, communication and customer service all require the ability to be engaged, interested, excited and even joyful at times—even when you may not be.   Putting a concerted effort in your expressions (even while at rest) when meeting people or while attending meetings, conferences or just communicating in general, can improve your interpersonal relationships. 

It’s time to drop the RBF and allow people to see the real you.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Laughter IS the Best Medicine and I Can Prove It


"There is little success where there is little laughter."- Andrew Carnegie

How many times have you heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine?”  This is a metaphor used over and over again when describing the benefits of laughter.   But guess what?  It’s true—and science backs it up.  In fact, research shows that laughter releases the brain chemical serotonin (a mood stabilizer often lacking in those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression) and endorphins (the feel-chemical in our brain that responds to pain and stress.)  Laughter increases our heart rate, burns calories, improves our focus and reduces the negative effects that stress has on our body and mind.

I don’t remember when “joking around” became the norm for me.  Believe it or not, I was an incredibly shy young girl.  Raised with all brothers, I did have to develop different types of defense mechanisms and teasing and joking became one of them.  There was something powerful about laughing my way out of situations that made me uncomfortable. 

Laughing relieved my anxiety and stress and would put a protective barrier around my otherwise tender heart.  Teased mercilessly by my older brother, I either needed to fight back with an arsenal of zingers or run to my room crying.   I choose to fight.   I could rouse my brother with the simplest form of reverse psychology.  He would call me names and make fun of prepubescent boy like figure and I would simply agree.  “You are absolutely right, my chest is as flat as an iron board.”  His inability to make me cry would throw him into a fit of blind rage.  Me?  I would laugh uncontrollably until I got in trouble for “teasing” my four-year older brother!    

There is just something bonding about laughing with others over a good joke, a funny movie or a corny pun.  In fact nothing gets me giggling like a bad pun.  You are either pun-loving or not, there is just no in between.  It usually starts off innocently enough.  For example, my daughter texted me the other day, “Mom, the cat peed in my room again!”  I responded, “Well, you better clean it up before I get home or urine trouble!”  I receive a text back, “You are lame, mom.”  I respond, “Far pee it from me to disagree.”  Now if that didn’t make you laugh, then you are missing a punny bone. 

Laughter promotes togetherness and builds relationships.  Laughter breaks down barriers, and like a smile, is universally understood across different cultures.  Laughter can uplift an otherwise disengaged and unmotivated workforce.  Laughter can reduce conflict, hostility and resentment among coworkers.  Best of all?  It’s positively contagious!

There is a stereotype about what a professional resembles.  Rarely does funny, witty, silly or self-defecating make the list of admirable characteristics.   Often time, when we think of “being professional,” we think of formal, proper and composed.  In reality, a professional is competent, ethical, a great communicator, reliable, and—presents themselves in a tidy and well-groomed manner.  Now where does it say you can’t be all of those things + funny? 

Speaking of which.  One time, my supervisor asked me to start my training presentation with a joke.  So, I attached my paycheck to the first slide!  No?  Okay, how about this one.  A ham sandwich walks into a bar and orders a beer.  The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”   Still no?  I guess I’m going to have to pull out the oldie but goodie, a knock knock joke!   Knock Knock.  Who’s there?  A little old lady.  A little old lady who?  I had no idea you could yodel!  

Regardless of your humor track, having a little fun and laughing in the workplace has its benefits.  Research shows that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce.   Sparing time each day to connect and be a little silly is known to increase focus and motivation.  Laughing in a group encourages creativity and thinking outside the “formal” box.   It can also built trust, comfort and comradery among teams.

Now that we know the many benefits, how can you implement more laughter in the workplace?

1.  Allow it- I know that seems obvious, but some supervisors think if you are laughing you are not being productive.  The opposite is true.  An engaged and happy staff is more productive.  Allot a reasonable amount of time to bond or schedule some time each week to do a fun activity, share an embarrassing (but hilarious) story, share or tell appropriate jokes, etc.

2.  Loosen up- Leaders need to be approachable.  Poking fun at your weaknesses or sharing a funny story about an experience can make you more relatable to staff and build trust with your team.

3.  Create a Laughter Committee- If you have some office clowns, have them create a committee and come up with fun and creative ways to bring laughter and joy into the workplace.  The best ideas come from those who like to laugh.

As fun as funny is, always be mindful of your audience.  I've learned that not everyone thinks I'm as adorable as I think I am.  Be sure to keep your jokes and humor appropriate for the workplace and always stay away from humor, teasing or joking that would be in violation of your organization's policies.

I will end this article with a couple of my favorite stories that are not flattering to me, but when I share them, continues to make me laugh and others laugh as well.

1. When I was 30-years old, I was walking by a restaurant and this young man said to his friend, “Ya, she’s hot for being two days past the expiration date.”  At the time I was completely insulted.  The 52-year old me only concentrates on the first part of his comment!

2.  When my son was around Junior High age, he looked at me one day and said, “Mom, you are really starting to look like Grandma.”  “Oh, ya, how so? I ask.”  He responds, “You both have parentheses around your mouths.”    He was referring to wrinkles! 

Now, if you don't think THAT is funny... 





Wednesday, April 6, 2022

If It Doesn't Fit-- You Must Acquit (and let it go)


Why do we hold on to people, places and things that limit our growth?  From relationships that no longer serve us, to guilt for things we can’t change, to grudges whose cause have long been forgotten, we fail to “let it go.”

It’s time to clean house!  And we are going to start by unloading all the unnecessary baggage we hold on to that clutters our thinking and our lives. 

A couple of weeks ago I had a yard sale.  I decided to finally purge my closet of all the clothes that were in the “one day I will fit back into them” category.   This was an incredibly difficult process for me.  In my distorted thinking, letting go of these too small items was like saying to myself, “I give up!”  The reality is, if—and it’s a hefty if—I ever get down to my early 2000s weight, I can buy new clothes!  And no, I am not skirting (get it?) over the fact that twenty-year-old items hung in infamy in my closet.  In my defense, I’ve been alive enough decades to know that everything comes back into style at some point.

So, why do we hold on to things that not only limit our growth, but no longer fit?   Because letting go equals change.  And change is scary.  For example, my niece went through her toys that she no longer played with or outgrew and included them in the yard sale.  At first, she was excited about the potential earnings she would make that would allow her to purchase new and improved toys.  As the day rolled on, I noticed a stockpile of her old toys were back in the garage.   

When we let go of things—even when they no longer fit; or, we no longer play with them; or, they no longer serve us -- we are letting go of a time that no longer is and a piece of us that no longer will be.    The uncertainty of it all can be paralyzing.   Instead of stepping into the abyss of the unknown, we curl up in the comfort of familiarity.  In my niece’s case, letting go of the old toys would equal accepting the reality that she is growing up.

Author John C. Maxwell once said, “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”   You can NOT control change.  It is going to happen regardless of how hard you try to hold on.  What you do have control over is how you approach change. 

The following are a few tips on how you can let go of people, places and things that limit your growth:

1.  Acceptance- Repeat each day, “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”  Acceptance is the first step on your journey of growth.

2.  Change your Mindset- Once you accept the fact the change is inevitable, you can begin to seek and embrace the benefits that come from letting go.  Opportunities present themselves to us every day; unfortunately, fear prevents us from seeing what is often right in front of us. 

3. Set Yourself FREE- Work on your self-worth.  Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with positive body image and perfectionism.  Letting go of my “skinny” clothes that no longer fit was a step forward in letting go of the unrealistic and unattainable 20-year-old me and embracing the healthier, stronger and happier 50-year-old me.  Once you accept and believe you are worthy and good enough, the people, places and things that are weighing you down will be much easier to rid of.

I want to challenge you to start your spring cleaning today.   List all the areas of your life that are no longer benefiting you, accept that you no longer need it in your life and open yourself to all the opportunities for growth that awaits you.

Fa La La Funk- Dealing With the Holiday Blues

  Dear Workplace Wonda,  Each winter, when the holiday season rushes upon me like a crowd at a Bad Bunny concert, instead of feeling excitem...