How To Stop RBF From Killing Your Communication


“Body language is fluff.”
I was told this recently. I didn’t say a word. My responding body language to that statement said it all, and the message was heard loud and clear by this person. They immediately started backtracking and justifying their statement.
The irony of that was not lost on me. Here they were telling me that body language is not important yet changed their tune to pseudo-apologetic mode in response to my body language.
You’re right, fluff.  Not important at all. Using my not so subtle sarcastic voice
My passion about body language came from a fascination and a necessity.
The necessity came from the fact that I have a Scarlett O’Hara Resting Bitch Face (RBF). This face is when you look mean, unintentionally, when your face is expressionless. During an interview coaching exercise, I accidentally slipped into this when working with a client. She stopped midsentence, laughed a bit and told me that I scared her because I looked really mean.  Oops.
The fascination came when I realized by just changing my body language I could elicit different responses from people.  I elicited a change in the conversation by employing the RBF in the above conversation.
This phenomenon happens more for women than men, although there are some men that naturally have RBF. Think Kanye West and Jeremy Renner.  Jeremy Renner is completely aware of this, as he discusses in this funny clip from the Graham Norton Show:   He states that he is quite comfortable with his resting face because, as he says, he built a career on it.
That will not work out so well for the rest of us who aren’t playing Avengers. Research using face recognition software has stated that this look registers twice the amount of emotion as compared to a neutral face.
However, the emotion registers as contempt, which is one of the worst and most dangerous emotions for communication.  Contempt is a mix of disgust and anger, two things that can destroy any relationship.   As businesses are built on relationships, you don’t want RBF anywhere near the people with whom you interact.
What causes RBF? Many people’s mouths or eyes naturally turn down when at rest. In other words, we are born with it.
Not sure if you suffer from RBF? Do you find people ask you out of the blue:
“Are you okay?”
“Are you mad?”
“Did something happen?”
Or one of my personal favorites – “You should smile more!”
There are a few things you can do if you feel that you are slipping into RBF:
  1. Look up at the person. You might have to tilt your head a slight bit down to do so in but it will open your eyes.
  2. Slightly raise your eyebrows, this naturally opens your eyes a bit.
  3. Open your mouth, this will change the form of and can more easily lead into number four.
  4. Smile slightly. This breaks the downward lines associated with RBF.
As silly as it sounds, look in the mirror to see where you fall on the range of RBF. Then practice the above tips so they feel comfortable and natural. You will then, on command, transition from RBF to engaged face when needed.
Yes, I said as needed.  I have found RBF to come in quite handy when my son is being unruly or someone questions the importance of body language.




I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career that renews their brilliance.

I am triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Social Brand Analyst and Career Coach specializing in Master Level Resume/LinkedIn writing, NLP and Body Language. My clients learn to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to all aspects of their career, including: LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence, and influence.

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