What Faces Reveal

When she sat in my office, I could not stop translating her face. The raised eyebrow was saying one thing but the upturned, impish mouth another. What I first sensed was a tough conversation soon turned in to one of the most delightful visits of the day.

How do you translate faces? What tools come to mind when deconstructing a frown, a smile, a grimace, even a yawn?

Facial recognition software is no longer the stuff of science fiction. As we work with people, our minds are constantly using a primordial, yes original version of such technology. Recently, I reunited with a couple in an airport whom I had not seen in over a decade. I knew their faces immediately and, within a couple of minutes remembered the husband’s first and last name. Eventually, I confessed a lapse in memory, looked at the wife and said, “Forgive me, but remind me of your name.”  She did, we all smiled, parted with hugs, and warm memories from years back were rekindled and celebrated.

What are your client’s faces telling you?

Advisors who learn to read faces have an edge on the rest of us. They notice the upturned cheek or the downward glance, the twinkle in the eye and the slight nod of the jaw, the raised eyebrow, and the confused posture. Faces often convey more than words—far more!

What is your face telling others?

Whether a colleague, spouse, child, prospect or client, all are reading your face from the moment you come in to view regardless of circumstances. How you trigger your unique personality impacts your ability to be with others effectively. Imagine you are meeting with a client for a review. You note in the review that a bond is going to be called in 30 days. It’s one of those wonderful 5% municipal issues of fond memory. As you share that data, you notice the client’s eyes fall just a bit as the head drops ever so slightly. Yes, you have an idea on how best to reposition that asset, but the eyes and head are telling you to slow down and ask a more vital question.

“Mary, I could not help but notice your response when hearing this bond is about to be called. I have some ideas, but something else is going on. Can you talk about it?”

What you learn is that the woman sitting in front of you has had in the last three weeks about all the bad news she can handle. Her sister who lives 400 miles away has just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, her entire AC system at her home was struck by lightning, and a close friend lost his battle with Parkinson’s and was buried the day before. Mary’s face told you to change gears, put the statement down, set aside the next investment idea, and focus solely and compassionately on the person in front of you.

On more days than we imagine and in more conversations we can number, all of us are emoting messages through our faces. Advisors who learn to read faces well will not only be more valuable to clients but come to a place of self-understanding that is truly transformative.

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