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.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.

★ To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right ★

Be Like Them To Be Liked By Them


matching and mirroring for networking

Ah, networking. How we need thee and sometimes loath thee.

Imagine walking into a room and not knowing a single person. Do you feel your stomach tighten? Your nerves tingle? Does your breathing quicken and become shallower? Is that little voice in your head questioning how you are going to connect to someone, anyone?

Now imagine walking into a room full of strangers. But this time, you are confident that in a few minutes, you will be building rapport with anyone in that room.

Which scenario would you like better? I bet the second one. There is only a slight difference between the two scenarios. The key is deliberately applying something we do naturally.

Before we get to the key – let me frame our conversation with this basic fact: like attracts like. We are drawn to people like us or share similar traits, interests, habits or patterns.

I had a whole city full of demonstrations of this fact last weekend. Chief and I went to a concert. As we were walking around town before the show, we saw a lot of people wearing shirts with the band’s name on it. Lots of people. From 10-year-olds to 70-year-olds. Every shape, size, color imaginable of person – all wearing similar shirts. And each time they passed one another they interacted. With positive hand gestures and shouted out the band name or something related to the band.

There was a lot of bonding among strangers in that little town. All because they had something in common.

Like attracts like.

How does this benefit you in building rapport quickly when networking? And what is this thing we naturally do anyway?

Matching and Mirroring. These are two terms used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Basically, it is becoming in sync with the other person.

There is a subtle difference between the two and, just for fun, let’s add another element: Cross Over Mirroring. In terms of body language, the three can be very simply broken down as:

Mirroring is literally being a mirror to the other person. If they raise their right hand, you raise your left as though they are looking into a mirror.

Matching is copying their move. If they tilt their head to the left slightly, you tilt your head slightly to your left.

Cross Over Mirroring is when you match their movement with a different type of movement. If they are tapping their foot, you tap your finger.

We instinctually perform matching and mirroring. The next time you are talking to a friend or loved one, pay attention to how you are interacting. Are you leaning in after they lean in? Do you use hand gestures when you talk and they respond using similar hand gestures?

Yet when you are aware of the implication of matching and mirroring and apply it deliberately, you will quickly create a trust bridge. You will be emitting, and their brain will be receiving, a message that says, “Hey, there is no danger here, we are cool. We can build a connection because we are alike.”

It first starts with the handshake. Match their handshake. If they are a strong shaker, shake their hand firmly right back. If they are a soggy-sock shaker, use very little pressure. No matter how hard it is – fight the urge to squeeze a gentle shaker’s hand. It sets up a roadblock to building rapport.

I mentioned above breathing and speaking. If the person you are speaking with is a fast talker, speed up a bit to be more in sync with them. If they are a more deliberate talker, slow it down.

Matching their breathing can be trickier. You can notice their shoulders to get the sense of their timing, but that may be more than you are willing to tackle at first.

Start with the body language, speed and pitch of their voice. Build symmetry naturally.

Naturally – that is the caveat. We want to match and mirror – not mimic or monkey. What does this mean? Have you heard the phrase ‘monkey see, monkey do”? It means when someone makes a move you immediately make that move. And continue to do so. That is way too deliberate. It is annoying and you actually break the rapport.

Be aware and be subtle. Wait a couple beats to match or mirror. Make your movements gentle and natural so they are unaware of what you are doing.

The next time you walk into that room of unknowns, take a moment to scan and observe. Notice how someone stands, leans and gestures. Then you can approach them and confidently, discretely and quickly build rapport so there won’t be a stranger left in that room.

Did you notice the matching being done in the picture above? The two gentlemen each have a hand in their pocket. All three are holding their glasses in their right hand at the same plane. One gentleman is holding his glass higher near the rim, while the other two are holding theirs closer to the stem of the glass. It’s fun when you start looking a bit more closely, isn’t it?!




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. 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 LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.

★ To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right ★

Respect the Dog, Respect the Body Language

I love big dogs.  I have had a Great Pyrenees and German Sheppard/Husky mix and currently have a Lab mix and Pit mix.  I am a person that prefers big dogs.

There are three exceptions: Bud the Pug, Brutus the Terrier and Lexi the Puggle.  They are mine, too, but the only exception to small dogs.  I am not a fan of small dogs.  It has been my experience that the little, tiny dogs I have come across are yip-yips and noisy.  I affectionately call them foo-foo dogs.

The other day I took Luke, my Lab mix who is in the accompanying picture, on a walk.  Luke is a big puppy.  He may be over five years old, but he still lives in his world of being a six pound, six month old puppy who is completely oblivious to his strength or size.

We are still leash training.

He was doing very well and I was quite proud, until we saw a foo-foo dog.

Luke is under the impression that ever person we meet and ever dog we see is there for the sole purpose of playing with him.  No exceptions.

Well before the foo-foo dog approached, I began to prepare him for the pass.  When the woman approached, I had Luke sitting, pulled up on his leash, positioned myself between me and her/her foo-foo dog, petting him and repeatedly saying, “No, we are not going to play, good boy stay.”

This could clearly be heard: “No.”

Apparently, not by foo-foo dog lady.

She walked up, brought her dog to Luke and asked him if he wanted to say hi.

Of course my dog wants to say hi.  He wants to play and in doing so there is a very good chance that he will pick up foo-foo dog by the gruff, give it a “love shake” and a little toss.

I, on the other hand, did not want Luke to say hi.  I was making this as clear as I possibly could with my body language.

Once the calamity ensued, I had to tell her that he was not used to small dogs and I did not want him to play rough (or ruff if I want to get cute about it).  I wanted to be very careful in how I told her to basically get her foo-foo dog away because us dog people are sensitive.  You can insult me, but do not insult my dog. That finally sunk in and she pulled foo-foo back and I told her how cute he was and thank you for letting them say hi.  Again, us dog people are sensitive, there is protocol.

As a Career Coach and helper of those looking to advance in their career, I tend to take everyday events and relate them to job searching, interviewing, networking etc.  This is no exception.

I would not have hired this woman for a job.

She clearly missed numerous signals and clues.  How often do we do this in an interviewing or networking situation?

When at a networking event and speaking to someone, do you notice them backing up?  Do you continue to lean forward?  They are giving you a clear indication that you are invading their space and would like it back.  During an interview do you find the interviewer lower their head, start to shake it “no” slowly and avert eye contact?  This is an indication that they are not in agreement or liking what you are saying.  Do you continue to talk anyway without clarifying your message?

On the other hand, when talking to another person, do you find them leaning in and nodding their head slightly “yes”?  This is an indication that they are interested in what you have to say, are you continuing the conversation?

It is important to be aware of your body language to make sure you are sending the right message; however, just as important is to tune in to your audience’s body language.

If you are a hand talker, you are probably aware of the movements of your hand as to not overwhelm your audience.  However, if the person you are talking to is also a hand talker, it is okay to mimic them a bit and use your hands.  This shows symmetry and alignment.

There are numerous articles on body language, some time ago I wrote a blog Don’t Let Your Body Sabotage Your Poker Face.  When reading any article on body language, be sure to utilize the information on how to control yours, as well as interpret others.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

If You Can’t Speak My Language At Least Try Not To Offend Me

Multi-generational work force – I heard that the other day and thought it was quite a mouthful, yet also true.  Think about it – you have the opportunity to work with three generations at once.  To me that is amazing and a bit frightening all at once.

Amazing because the insight and perspective that each generation lends and frightening as to how they communicate with each other.  Think about a bad Thanksgiving meal – it could be even worse because you are not forced to like these people.

I don’t know that my generation has a name or what it might be.  Sometimes I think it is the “I just need a day to myself to figure out how the hell I got to grownup with kids and still answering to my parents all at the same time” generation.  Maybe that is just me….

There is one thing for sure – we all speak a different language.  This was brought to mind a couple of weeks ago when I was enjoying cocktails with a friend.  At some point we had engaged in conversation with two post-teens – they were at least old enough to be in the bar but maturity-wise I’m being nice here in not commenting.

Anyway before they left the more bold of the two came up to me, grabbed my hand and stated, “So are we doing it or what?”  Seriously? Seriously.  Seriously!  I thought my friend was going to drop out of her chair from the look on my face and my response.  They left fairly quickly after that.

Perhaps that is appropriate for other post-teens but not in my book buddy.  I can understand that we do not speak the same language for example when his friend introduced himself with a “yo” but for goodness sakes, don’t be a jackass about it.

Many times you can tell that you are not speaking the same language based on the other’s reaction.  Visual clues of a furrowed brow, slight opening of the mouth in surprise, crossing of the arms, taking a step back – all of these are clear indicators that your message has not been perceived in a manner in which you intended.  Or if you intended to offend or upset you are nearing your target.

It is at this point that you should stop talking, pause, and state something very clearly – “I don’t think I am expressing myself correctly.”  Take ownership and then tell them what you are trying to say and start asking them clarifying questions.  Perhaps it is just a word that is being taken out of context.  It could be that you are more enthusiastic about the entire process and that is skewing your message.  Whatever it is you need to change tactics and ask them what they are hearing so you can get on the same page.

In written communication you do not have the luxury of reading immediate responses.  In this case you should always error on the side of overly cautious.  For the younger generation treat your audience with respect as you would your parents or grandparents.  Do not use slang – we do not always get your language.  For my generation do not speak down to either generation as both are smarter than us in many ways.  For the older generation do not assume you do not have value to contribute and be afraid to voice it and do not assume that we don’t care.

The best way to tune into their language is to listen.  Actually close the mouth, open the ears and listen without interrupting or trying to interpret.  Then take this a step further – ask clarifying questions.  Understanding that we speak a different language is one step – respecting it is another.

I may not like the way my son talks at times and there are times that my mom completely looses me – but I try.  And because I make an actual attempt and effort we have much better communication – even we agree to disagree.

You have a myriad of audiences in which you must interact.  Being mindful of this and adjusting your presentation and communication style to your audience will help ensure that all parties get the most of the collaboration.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.