Surprise! What’s your body language reaction?

Surprise! What’s your body language reaction?

by Barbara Chatzkel

How did you react the last time you ripped off the wrapping paper and discovered the gift waiting inside?

what's in the box

If it was “the” toy of the moment or some other highly desired item, your reaction was probably quite swift and genuine – a combination of raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and opened mouth, accompanied by joyful noises.

If it was a six-pack of black socks, your first reaction also was quite instantaneous, but it probably wasn’t joy – more likely, disappointment. Perhaps you then replaced that emotion with an attempt at delighted surprise.

We all remember those moments when our body language sent out the true emotion and we tried to change that emotion.

By its nature, surprise does not allow you to pre-compose your body language because you are unprepared for it. Surprise is a surprise!

Response to a surprise includes a quick set of body language actions, usually including a number of microexpressions that last for just a fraction of a second.

What happens, exactly? Three areas of the face react almost in unison – eyebrows, eyes, and mouth. The eyebrows raise, the eyes widen, and the mouth opens. The more intense the surprise, the more extreme the widening of the eyes. When the surprise is a big shock, you may observe the surprised person’s hands flying upward to protect the heart and other vital organs.

fake or real body language

You might observe a person reacting to a surprise or surprising statement – and something seems off. Yes, people do try to fake reactions to surprises. If the widening eyes, raising eyebrows, and opening mouth aren’t instantaneous, this is a clue that the expressions are being faked. When the reactions are methodical and smooth, you aren’t witnessing surprised behavior, but rather feigned surprise.

If you are the “giver” of the surprise, what should your body language be? If you want it to be a surprise, don’t act surprised!

I recently received a very nice surprise. While the surprise came by email, I was aware that my body language was the same as if I’d heard the great news face-to-face. I pulled back from the monitor, eyebrows up, eyes wide, mouth open. Even though nobody else was there, my body language mode kicked in strongly.

After a couple of seconds, I was up and out of my chair, jumping up and down and yelling “Yippee!” My body knew exactly how to react to such wonderful've got a contract

So, what was the surprise? My book proposal was accepted by a publisher, with no changes. A contract arrived the same day.

Was I surprised? You bet!!

Stay tuned to follow this body language journey from contract to printed book.

Barbara Chatzkel
’s ability to provide a vibrant and behavior-changing book extends Chatzkelacross industry segments – everyone uses business body language. Her coaching and consulting expertise on business body language grew from conducting union negotiations, managing difficult personnel situations, managing at multiple levels, and extensive business coaching experience. Her new book, Business Body Language: Your Visual Business Card, will be available in print in early 2016. Visit her website today for further information.

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1 Response to Surprise! What’s your body language reaction?

  1. Beth Kozan says:

    Congratulations on the pubisher’s contract, Barbara!


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