David Givens

David B. Givens Ph.D.

Your Body at Work

Face Value at Work

David Givens looks at your face in business.

Posted Jun 24, 2010

Get that look off your face! -MOM (Your first and dearest boss)

The face you wear to work each day defines your identity, expresses your moods and opinions, and shows how you relate to others. Every human's visual trademark, the face is our species' most photographed body part. For 99.99% of our existence as Homo we watched other faces, but rarely saw our own except as glimpsed in ponds and pools. Capturing a face in pictures or mirrors has been likened to capturing the soul. That in so many societies the face is said to reflect the soul bespeaks the nonverbal power of its landmarks.

Nowhere is a businessperson's facial power more graphically depicted than in the Wall Street Journal. On its pages, stippled portraits called "Hedcuts" distill the essence of business faces into tightly cropped sketches of head-and-shoulders designed to showcase hair, eyes, and facial features with bristling dots and crosshatched lines.

Introduced to the Journal by artist Kevin Sprouls in 1979, the pen-and-ink Hedcuts usually show serious faces in repose, with minimal animation of features. In the March 22, 2007 Hedcut of Borders CEO George Jones, for example, Mr. Jones peers at us through calm eyes from a seemingly disembodied face. His short business hair, pressed suit, and knotted tie hardly seem to matter next to his tranquil gaze. In the October 29, 2008 Hedcut of Donald Trump, Mr. Trump's hair threatens to crash upon his serious brow like a wave from the Bonzai Pipeline. The swelling hair is all that seems to matter.

Hedcuts accent facial strengths and weaknesses. They reveal the sharpest of contrasts, for instance, between Donald Trump's "power face" and the boyish mien of Microsoft's former boss William H. Gates III. If Mr. Trump's face is basically rectangular, broad across the cheekbones, and wide across the lower jaw, Mr. Gates's oval face is narrow, with a slender lower jaw that exhibits some disharmony between its skeletal support and soft tissues. Bill Gates's lower face is more spheroid than squared-off.

Trump wears a more dominant, and Gates a more submissive, business face. What do dominant faces look like? According to Syracuse University sociologist, Allan Mazur: "Faces identified as dominant are more likely to be handsome--to be muscular, to have prominent as opposed to weak chins, and to have heavy brow ridges with deep set eyes. Submissive faces are often round or narrow." Dr. Mazur has found that facial dominance correlates well with higher achieved rank in the U.S. military. In the Marines, a Donald face trumps the weaker face of a Bill Gates.

The look of your face in business or battle is undoubtedly important, but how you animate its features is more important still. Facial animation--the mobility of your chin, lips, tongue, cheeks, eyelids, and eyebrows--will be the topic of future PT Blogs. If Bill Gates shows a mischievous grin, The Donald shows a pugnacious pout. Which face would you rather do business with?

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