We Are All Literally Two-Faced
"Your face is my map to your life."
We are all literally and unwittingly two-faced. To learn more about how you present yourself to the world, and your underlying, more "private" feelings, you just have to look yourself in the face. Want to get out a mirror now, before you read further?
You constantly present two aspects of yourself, on the two sides of your face. Recent research on the different functions of the left and right sides of the brain helps to explain why this is so. The two, vertical halves of the face are each affected by the nerves of the opposite side of the brain and show the world different parts of how you feel.
In fact, the two sides of your face, like the two sides of your body -- the left and the right -- are usually asymmetrical and unequal in proportion. Look at yourself in the mirror -- full-face and full length -- to see the differences.
In short, your face is your shorthand to your body language.
Your expressions, in repose, are icons of your attitudes toward life.
The left side is your more "private" part of your personality and your right is the more "public" side of your face. The left often looks less happy than the right. Most subjects who have been analyzed projected their wish images upon their left side of their face and their right side related more to their real or basic self-image and attitude towards the world.
Your face's right side often appears more pleasant, sensitive, vulnerable and/or open in expression. The left side is less expressive than the right and tends to reflect the hidden, severe, stern and/or depressed aspects you usually intend to keep private from the world -- and sometimes even from yourself.
The left side is more likely to register negative emotions, while the right side tends to reflect the more positive and optimistic, but not necessarily phony part of your personality.
"When I smile I must also show the grimace behind it."
Since the right side of the brain has more control over the left side of the body -- including the face -- then it stands to reason that the research on how the brain is organized, left and right, can give us insights into how we literally face the world and how we can better understand others. The left brain -- reflected more in the right side of the face -- relates to logic, pragmatic thinking, practicality and language.
The right part of the brain, in turn, relates more to intuition, imagination, and other more creative leanings.
The basic gut feelings, including your attitude towards yourself and your life emanate from your right brain. You express them more in the left side of your face.
We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.
The more controlled or conscious responses -- the social mask you put on for the world -- may be processed more by the pragmatic left brain and appear more readily on the right side of the face.
Now you may be getting lost in "lefts" and "rights" of all this, but let's continue with some experiments you can conduct to learn more about yourself and others for whom you have strong feelings (like or dislike) in your life.
How Do You See the World?
Ironically, the right brain is more actively involved in observing the world -- which it does predominantly through your left eye. And, when you face someone, your left eye is across from the other person's right side. Therefore, you are more aware of their right side.
But you are thus most noticing the side of the other person's face which is more connected with the left or "logical" and less revealing side. You miss facing the part of their face that is most likely to show underlying "true" feelings.
"Public / Private Face" Exercise
Here is a rather intimate exercise to do with someone -- and it doesn't involve disrobing or even touching. Sit facing each other.
Now look at the left and the right sides of the other person's face. Does the right side show a more open, less tense presence? Does the left look more reserved, serious?
The left side, that is their left side, is the more private face, remember, and the right side is their more public face. In fact, the left side is likely to show their more basic disposition. As you face each other, discuss your observations, one side at a time.
"The face is the most memorable part of the body and the
"Driver's License Photo Show" Exercise
Now try this experiment. Get out your driver's license. Look at both sides of your face, covering one side at a time with a piece of paper. Look "inward" at yourself and see if you observe different aspects of yourself.
You may also want to look back at your family album and look at the progression of your face and your personality development overtime -- and that of others in your family. Look at the childhood albums of close friends and in-laws for other perspectives on them.
"Photo Finish" Exercise
To gain a still more revealing view of yourself, find two photographic negatives of "head and shoulders", close-up pictures of yourself. If you don't have any handy, ask someone to take two pictures of you; offer to do the same for them and compare notes on this exercise.
Cut both negatives of yourself vertically in half, down the center of your face. Flop over one side of each negative. Take a glossy-coated side and a dull-coated side of the left side of your face from the two negatives, and ask your camera shop to print it to create a "left-left" photo.
Take a glossy and a dull-sided half of your face and also get a "right-right" print made. Thus, instead of the normal right-left photo of your actual face, the joined half negatives become right-right and left-left faces.
You will then see exaggerated versions of both aspects of yourself -- and will probably be able to see each more clearly.
Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal reporter, Kare Anderson is CEO of Say it Better Center, co-founder of women's social network, SavvyHer and author of SmartPartnering, LikeABILITY, Resolving Conflict Sooner and other books. Visit www.SayitBetter.com.
Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives