The best thing I learned while getting my degree in education was to beware the thinking face.
She was explaining something about education when she told us to freeze. Half the class, myself included, was asked to stay frozen while she took the other half of the class out for secret instructions. Some seconds later they re-entered. Each of us had a partner sit across from us who studied our face and wrote things down.
We let our expressions drop and she asked our partners to read what they had written about us.
Many of the adjectives followed those lines. That's what our partners saw in our frozen faces. That's what we looked like. But was that what we were thinking?
No. Not at all. We were shocked. We aren't angry, upset, or frustrated. In fact, we were very much interested in what she had been teaching us. We were simply...thinking.
I will never forget that day or that professor at Michigan State University. She changed my life because she told me the single most important thing you need to know when facing a sea of teenagers as a new English teacher: when you glance out at those rows and those angry-looking faces and think they all must hate your guts...
...that might just be your best moment in class because you got them to go in, go deep, and ponder what you were discussing.
Try it yourself. Give yourself a problem to solve. It could be a math problem, a way to fence in the yard, a relationship quandary. Think about it. Really think about it. Then freeze and look in the mirror. How do you appear?
We might see this thinking face dozens of times a day. It could be in a business meeting, at home with the kids, or when asking a question in a store. It doesn't happen all the time; people may smile when they know the answer to something readily. But if you ask them a questions they have to digest and formulate an answer to, here comes that thinking face.
Once you know about this face, relationships become easier to navigate. There is less upset and more positive discussion. Your kid, your spouse, your roommate, or your co-worker might not be giving you attitude, they might be giving you a gift–the gift of caring about your question enough to truly think about it.
It's like personal growth and stuff.