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On January 15th 2016 I released an app in the iTunes store called “Emotion Connection”. It turns learning how to read emotion and microexpressions, a step in learning to connect with others, into a game. I called the app “Emotion Connection” rather than “Emotion Reading” so that my goal was clear. Some people use microexpression reading to improve their business skills, win at poker, or manipulate others. Those are not my goals; my goal is people developing the skills they need to be able to have deeper relationships with others. Often connection can feel like an ethereal concept, but you can actually learn how to understand yourself and others, with the goal of connection. Understanding emotion and microexpressions is a concrete skill that someone can learn in order to understand how to connect better. A few hours of playing with this app and you will be able to better read people’s emotions and be on the road to connection.

To create the app, I compiled a 20 minute series of video clips, which I knew would elicit certain emotions, and I asked people to participate in being recorded for my app. I chose seven people to take part in the recording and they watched the videos while I focused a camera on their faces. While watching the videos, they flashed different microexpressions and emotions. For the app, I wanted to have one clear emotion from each category, from each person. For example, one of my subjects flashed anger 5 times in the whole 20 minutes, and I used the one that was most clearly anger for the app. I even compared the timing of the videos I recorded with the specific sections of videos the subjects were watching, and the emotions made sense for the specific videos shown. I also wanted to include normal (or resting) examples of faces so people would be able to determine what normal looks like. Because I chose the clearest emotions, and from a variety of sexes and races, the Emotion Connection app is a helpful entry level tool for microexpression reading.

What do you do when you can read people’s emotions better? After working with the app for awhile, you will begin to pick up on people’s emotional clues. What do you do now that you can see someone demonstrating anger, that maybe they don’t even know they are experiencing? The important thing as you grow is to be able to get out of your own experience and enter into the other person’s experience. We often filter and project our own issues onto others. For example, when you are learning about microexpressions and you see a microexpression of anger, your previous experiences being afraid of angry people might cause your brain to assume it is fear. This means you are projecting your own experience of fear onto their true angry emotion. While you are learning to read microexpressions, work to feel what the person expressing the emotion is feeling—and know your reaction to it initially may be your own stuff.  

Unless you realize the true purpose of this game, it may not be something that excites you. We all “read” people’s emotions to an extent, but most of us do it subconsciously and poorly, even if we are paying attention. It is not a natural thing to pick up someone’s true emotions because most people do not even know their own emotions. You can learn how to do this; to train your eyes. Learning scales on the piano is boring, but if you do it enough, it makes it easier to play the instrument through muscle memory. When you are trying to connect with other people, learning microexpressions of emotions teaches you the small pieces that will help you connect. Learning the scales will not allow you to master the piano, but it is a first step that will help you get there. Learning microexpressions is a simple learnable step in the road to connection.

I am working on a website that involves deeper training. The website will include training videos, a workbook, a connection journal, and more than 300 other videos of more subtle microexpressions. Connection is a nuanced art, and I cannot wait to help you learn how to develop more meaningful connections with those around you. The Emotion Connection app is the first step, and I look forward to introducing you to the next step at