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Why a Resting Bitch Face means you're great at communicating

Posted by
Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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“What's wrong?”

“Cheer up love”

“Are you angry?”

If you've ever had at least one of these remarks unexpectedly thrown at you, chances are you have Resting Bitch Face (RBF).

The phrase, which denotes an expression (or rather a non-expression) that makes people think you’re in a bad mood when you're not (you're really just pondering on what to have for lunch), has become a phenomenon as of late.

Actress Anna Paquin defines RBF as “you are kind of caught off guard and you’re not smiling, and it means you look...like you want to kill people” and Anna Kendrick recently tweeted “Is there a filter on Instagram that fixes Bitchy Resting Face?” Meanwhile, studies have shown those with RBF are at a disadvantage: people who look “happy” are deemed more trustworthy and less likely to be found guilty of crimes.

But Rene Paulson, founder of Elite Research, consultant at Texas Women’s University and self-proclaimed RBF-sufferer, argues that it, in fact, makes people great communicators.

“Women confronted by a world that automatically attaches negative attributes to their non-smiling face must quickly learn how to communicate and also hone a finely-tuned awareness of both our own emotions and the emotions of those around us,” she writes in an article for Quartz.

“Women used to being constantly misunderstood focus more on the words someone says, rather than their tone, body cues, or facial expressions, ensuring a more effective flow of information between both parties.”

"This is my smiling face"

"This is my smiling face"

“We must also quickly develop a strong sense of self-awareness. This self-awareness allows you to adapt quickly in volatile or unfamiliar situations—an invaluable trait when presenting before a room full or strangers or superiors, for example.”

“And then there’s the empathy factor. Women used to being constantly misunderstood focus more on the words someone says, rather than their tone, body cues, or facial expressions, ensuring a more effective flow of information between both parties.”

Drawing from her “years of experience dealing with my less-than-jolly visage,” Paulson says she was able to “chalk up my own company’s continued growth, even during the recession, to a culture of communication and collaboration”.

“The vast majority of coverage has so far focused on the disadvantages of RBF. But this narrative only tells part of the story. The women in my family are very successful in their careers—despite, or perhaps in part because of—their RBF.”

So there you have it. There are powers to be found in a serious face.

Image: Rex Features, ThinkStock

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.

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