Basic Facial Expressions: How to Recognize People’s Emotions

One glance is not enough to know a person but you can certainly read basic facial expressions. To understand this better, we’ve rounded up a few ways below.


The skill of reading basic facial expressions is an important aspect of non-verbal communication. If you can learn to grasp a person’s emotions through their expressions will allow you to understand how the other person is feeling and help you interact with them accordingly. Sometimes the words one speaks emote a different feeling than what one is actually feeling.

Even if it is a good thing to pay attention to people’s moods through facial expressions, it will not tell you the reason. If a person looks angry, bored, or unbothered, it could be for several reasons and not just one. For instance, a long day can make them look tired. It may not be related to you, so do not be quick to judge either.

Below are a few tips to help you read the basic facial expressions.

Different Types of Universal Emotions: Basic Facial Expressions

There are many facial expressions that match different emotions and allow you to recognize people’s moods better. The different universal emotions are surprise, anger, happiness, sadness, fear, contempt, and disgust.


How to Read the Facial Expressions

There are a number of ways to get a handle on what a person is feeling. You can read a person’s moods through their eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. Here are some examples:

1. Watch the Eyes

Our eyes never lie. Although the saying, “The eyes are the windows to the soul,” sounds cliché, it is true in this case. No matter what face expression we put on, the eyes are quite telling. The best way to catch a person’s moods is to look into their eyes and observe. The basic facial expressions of the eyes to look out are a surprise, anger, or a happy mood.


A dilated pupil may indicate fear while rapid blinking of the eye may indicate dishonesty.

In the same way, wide-opened eyes indicate surprise, crinkled eyes indicate happiness, and staring hard indicate anger.


2. Eyebrows are Telling Too

Watch a person’s eyebrows to learn more about how they are feeling. This can be very telling to learn more about basic facial expressions.

basic facial expressions understanding-person-emotions-through-eyebrows

A raised or arched eyebrow may indicate surprise or doubt, or if the eyebrows are knit together, it may indicate anger, or if their inner corners are drawn up, then it indicates sadness.


3. Look Out for the Mouth

The last thing you can also recognize basic facial expressions is through their mouths. For example, a dropped jaw indicates surprise, raised corners indicate happiness, drawn down corners indicate sadness, lip biting indicates anxiety, and pursed lips indicate reservations.


In addition, an open mouth indicates fear or surprise, a covered mouth indicates being secretive, while a raised mouth corners indicate happiness.


These are some of the ways to read basic facial expressions. If you having a tough time reading people’s moods through their facial expressions, you might need to read more into it to learn exactly what a person is feeling. With practice, you will be able to recognize people’s moods and expressions better. If these tips were helpful for you, then you can also reach out or tweet us @careernuts!

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