Most of us have seen “the face.” It’s that face that says a lot without saying a word. It turns out that face is universal and researchers from Ohio State have name it the not face.” “The face” as I call it, is an expression that indicates displeasure, disagreement, even you’re about to be in trouble. My mom perfected the “not” face. One glance and she could render my brother and me into statue like stillness. To my amazement, she could do it to other people’s children as well. My mom had the most beautiful and chilling “not face.”

Here in is the paradox for business. The “not face” is universal. It is cross cultural, worldwide; but, you have to see it. The “not face” is a visual expression. A lot of business is now conducted by conference calls. In a face to face meeting, the moderator can scan the room and look for visual clue when there is silence. On the phone, not so much. It is maddening to hear someone glibly say, silence means consensus.  Silence can mean one of three things.

  1. I’m distracted and doing something else, I am not paying attention
  2. Is this a joke? I haven’t developed the verbal response to say you must be out of your mind, but the expression on my face says it all.
  3. My line dropped, I’m no longer on the call.

Technology rapidly evolved the way we do business and we’re catching up.  In text conversations, there are emoji’s to fill the emotional void. How to manage the “not face” virtually?  In a face to face meeting, you can read nonverbal cues. In a virtual environment, as a moderator, create an environment that allows collaboration. Assume silence means disagreement or distraction and work from there. Ask are there concerns. If agreement is needed, poll everyone on the call. You might not get everything out, but what you have done is taken away the false notion of silence being consensus. Until there is a not face emoji for virtual meetings, try asking. It’s better than not.