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Poker is an oft-used allegory for business meetings and negotiations, and for good reason. In both scenarios, the ability to read the micro expressions of your interlocutor is essential to success.
16th February 2023

Micro expressions tell all, so learn to read them

Patrick Crowder


The online casino company Jeffbet has taken their expertise in the gaming industry and applied it to the workplace. Poker is an oft-used allegory for business meetings and negotiations, and for good reason. In both scenarios, the ability to read the micro expressions of your interlocutor is essential to success.

“Alongside poker, where it’s common for a player to deliberately hide their facial expressions, it also happens in many other scenarios, including in job interviews or business meetings. However, there is one way to read a poker face that many people aren’t aware of. The key is to look out for micro expressions, which arise subconsciously and cannot be deliberately evoked or suppressed. Micro expressions can be quite difficult to detect, as they last for just 0.5 seconds, however with some practice, you can learn how to spot them,” according to Jeffbet.

Jeffbet lists seven of these micro expressions and their qualities: Surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, sadness, and contempt.

Surprise is characterised by the classic raising of the eyebrows, but it will not be the exaggerated look you might be used to seeing in movies. Look for subtle wrinkles on the forehead and see if their irises are fully surrounded by the whites of their eyes. Sometimes, when surprised, the jaw can open slightly.

When someone is afraid, their eyebrows often raise and come together slightly. Do not confuse this for surprise. Here the forehead wrinkles will appear more central on the forehead, above the bridge of the nose.

True disgust is difficult to hide, so picking up on it is fairly simple. Look for a slight narrowing of the eyes and a wrinkling of the nose. If a person is not hiding disgust well, you may also see their top lip tighten showing a small portion of their upper teeth.

Anger can often be determined by tone and context, however you can also read someone’s face if they are attempting to conceal their rage. The eyebrows tend to move downwards and close together, leaving vertical lines above the bridge of the nose. In the upper face, anger presents as the opposite of fear. The lips may also tighten and trend downwards.

The trick to spotting fake happiness is all in the eyes. Anyone can put on a big smile, but look for the natural wrinkling of the “crow’s feet” and the subtle ways the eyelids contract to see if the expression is genuine.

Sadness is difficult to detect if a person is attempting to conceal it, however the lips can be an indicator. You may notice a slight frown, and the lower lip may even come out slightly in a pout. The eyes can often be a giveaway, but you will usually pick up these more subtle cues subconsciously.

Contempt is the only asymmetrical micro expression – if one side of the mouth raises, there is a good change that the person you are talking to dislikes you or disagrees with your opinion.

All of these tips on spotting microexpressions are a great jumping off point, but at the end of the day it comes down to feel. The human mind is great at subconsciously picking out expressions and verbal cues, so you most likely have a sense of how people feel naturally. If you would like to improve these skills, the only way to get better is to practice.

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