Who is that Masked Man, Anyway? Why She Can’t “Read” Him


Who is that Masked Man, Anyway? Why She Can’t “Read” Him
Rather than revealing their emotions on their faces, men have learned to internalize them.
  • In substituting, men might think: “I’m really angry, but I’m going to act happy.” “I think the proposal stinks, but I’m going to act like it works.” “They offered me a raise that knocked my socks off, but I’m going to act unimpressed.” Lance Armstrong used substitution in the 2001 Tour de France to fool the competition. He grimaced and appeared to struggle during the early sprint portions of the race (at which he was most skilled), leading the other teams to believe he was a weak competitor that year. The racers let down their guard, and Armstrong shot to the lead.
  • In de-emphasizing, men might think: “I’m overjoyed by the price I’ve been able to negotiate for this car, but I’m going to act mildly pleased.” “I’m really angry, but I’m going to act vaguely perturbed.” “I’m frightened that my girlfriend will leave me, but I’m going to act confident.”
  • In neutralizing, men might think: “I don’t want my wife to know what I feel. Period.” And they stonewall.

And these days, Type A men are even resorting to Botox to reinforce their masked faces. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article subtitled, “Wipe that Smirk off Your Face. It’s Bad for Business,” “growing numbers of salesmen and lawyers, bankers and stockbrokers are fixing their facial expressions with Botox—freezing and sculpting their faces into semipermanent serenity.” A survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that about 12% of Botox devotees don’t use the stuff to combat wrinkles and signs of aging but rather to address a “severe/angry facial expression.”

Apparently, the frozen face gives men an even greater competitive edge. One patient—a 44-year-old principal at a real estate investment firm—attributed the 10% to 30% boost in his real estate deals to his treatments. “When you look strong and tough and not afraid,” he explained in the article, “people respect you more. Showing less expression really makes a statement.” Now that’s downright scary!

This is adapted from Audrey’s book, You Don’t Say: Navigating Nonverbal Communication Between the Sexes and her CD, He Speaks, She Speaks: What Different Things They Say. Check them out on her website

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