Have you considered that social distancing doesn’t really have to be socially distanced? Physically distanced? Sure…but the virtual world offers SO many incredible opportunities for social engagement and in fact in some cases it may even force a level of intimacy that was absent before and potentially very meaningful. By joining any one of thousands of virtual events now through socially connecting groups online, you have the opportunity to engage with sometimes an even higher number of folks in brief spans of time without ever leaving the comfort of your couch. That said, it’s an adjustment.
So, how do we optimize first impressions in the virtual world? Well, if you’ve read my book, “Don’t Be A Stranger” or attended one of my workshops (the next one is July 11 – e-mail me for a promo code for reduced registration if you’d like to attend!), then you already know how important your resting facial expression is to first impressions and how memorable you’re likely to be. It is very difficult to compensate for an unpleasant, disengaged resting facial expressions (i.e., check out blog post and readings on RBF). Well, this is almost as important, it not MORE important, in the virtual world.
A GREAT way to check YOUR resting facial expression is the freeze frame! First of all, to connect with people in the virtual world you must:
a) Attend virtual events! Sign up for meetup.com events, attend a workshop on www.eventbrite.com (my July 11 2:30-5pm talk based on my book is a great one! :P). If you’re online dating, convert those usual in-person dates or endless text conversations to a video chat! Introduce the family dog to your new companion. Give a virtual tour of your backyard or kitchen, prepare dinner together thru a cyber call. You can absolutely sense physical chemistry this way (i.e., how someone moves, their mannerisms, their charm, their cheeky grin, their eyes and how they smile), and often you can this thru video far better (and sooner) than you would over text or phone.
b) Freeze the Frame! What do I mean by that? Take a screenshot, and check yourself out! Are you smiling? Is your expression inviting? This is not about superficial looks but about how engaging your resting facial expression appears across the screen (which usually mimics what you’d present in real life). Virtual connections offer a unique opportunity to have facial expressions in meetings others mirrored back to you. What is your expression telling them? “I’m enjoying you?” “I’m inviting?” “I’m warm” or “I’m miserable.” “I’m bored.” “Why am I here?” Beware! The great news too? As soon as you Freeze that Frame and see for yourself, immediately challenge yourself to pivot and tweak that expression, if needed! It’s as simply as upturning your lips ever so slight-ly to appear even mildly more smiley. It’s upraising your eyebrows and adjusting your eyebrows to show greater curiosity. It’s uplifting your cheekbones to show greater pleasure and warmth. it doesn’t take long to retrain your face. In most cases, I assure you, “It’s NOT just your face!” More often than not, it’s in simply how you position your lips, your eyes, your eyebrows, and your cheekbones as a way of communicating.
Finally, the 5-second rule! During my workshops, I talk about the first 5 seconds. The number of 5 is fairly arbitrary. Similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of thin-slicing in his book, Blink, the idea is that the first few seconds (or fractions thereof) of meeting others, an assessment is often made. In meeting strangers, the first 5 seconds can be unforgettable. Do you want to be unforgettable for radiating your smile, giggle, or good humor? The reality is, in my experience, the average person is reserved, at best…often guarded or distracted, especially in today’s more technology-driven world. This is not an invitation to judge that person or society for its demise. Instead, I suggest focus on being the reason those folks smile. Focus on showing curiosity, not judgment, and engaging others. Focus on being the change you want to see in the world. Focus on turning what might have been an otherwise unmemorable moment into a moment never to be forgotten because a wonderful connection was made.