Here's a video where I go into a bit more detail on this topic. Check it out if you want to see what these faces look like in real life! :)
I’ve been in meetings where the boss came in and said something like, “team, I’m sorry, but we have to cut budgets by 20% this year and I need you to figure out how to do it."
I've also made a lot of different faces after hearing things like this.
“I told you so” face while looking at a friend in the meeting
“I might hyperventilate” face
“This company is ridiculous” face
It’s not that any of these emotions are wrong to feel. They just are wrong to immediately show on your face:)
Well, “wrong” is probably not the best way to say it. More precisely, a bad facial expression in high stakes meetings is not helpful to you or anyone else. It adds more negativity to an already tough situation.
Imagine driving your car and getting a flat tire, and in the most stressful part of changing the tire on the highway, a friend/spouse/child says to you, “I told you that your tires were bald, and you didn’t listen.”
That’s what it’s like when someone gives you a crap face in a meeting. It might be warranted, but it's NOT HELPFUL.
It's tough to control your face in the moment, but I've gotten better at it over the years. Today, if I feel my blood start to boil in a meeting, I switch my focus to managing the downside and not damaging relationships. I speak a lot less. I put a pleasant look on my face and start nodding at people who speak to acknowledge that I am listening. I just do what it takes to get through the dang meeting.
When I get out of the meeting, I take a little time by myself to calm down or I vent to a trusted person.
How has this worked for me? Not bad, actually. While I would much rather never get upset and always react perfectly in meetings, my approach at least eliminates the prospect of a complete disaster, which is when I stink eye my way through the meeting with a few snarky words or yell at someone. And hey, while I may not have been an “A” player in that meeting, at least I know that my behavior won’t come up in my next performance review. Winning!