Those Mysterious Brows

What kinds of messages do you send and receive through the windows of the soul and their frames? Let's start by discussing the eyebrows, an area of the face that's once again usually the exclusive concern of women, who spend time and money waxing, plucking, and shaping them in the quest for the perfect arch. Why are the eyebrows so important? Well, it helps to think of them as two horizontal exclamation points — they can emphasize (or completely contradict) the words coming out of your mouth.

Raising Brows

Picture this: You're speaking to your coworker, asking what time you can expect him to have his part of your joint report completed. As he tells you it'll be ready for you when you get back from lunch, he raises both of his brows. Is he being true or false?

Well, you'll have to base your answer on more than his eyebrows, but here's what those strips of hair can tell you: He wants you to believe him. When both brows are raised, it's like someone is underlining his verbal message. If your coworker happens to be a generally trustworthy person, then he's most likely telling you the truth about the report. If he's a compulsive liar, the eyebrows shouldn't convince you of the veracity of his message.

Raising both eyebrows is usually a way of emphasizing what you're saying, but it can also indicate confusion of some sort.

Typically, the double eyebrow-raise indicates that someone wants you to see her as a sincere person. Raising both brows is a way of saying “I'm telling you the truth.” However, liars are just as likely to employ this move as truthful people are, so don't base your judgment of the message solely on the positioning of the brows.

Raised eyebrows can also indicate confusion, though furrowed eyebrows are more common in these instances. If someone raises his brows while questioning your take on a particular issue, you'll typically note other body language signs, like an open mouth and flared nostrils. Taken together, these gestures indicate that the other person doesn't exactly think you're a championship-level fibber, but he has some serious concerns about what you're saying.

Raising One Brow

While the double brow-raise can sometimes indicate confusion, there's no mistaking the single brow-raise. Let's say that you're the one who's being asked to produce a report by the end of the business day. You give your coworker an enthusiastic “Can do!” and notice that he's looking at you with one eyebrow raised. Should you interpret this as a sign that he has complete faith in you and your abilities?

Hardly. The single eyebrow-raise is a nonverbal way of saying “I don't believe you.” Note that this is a step beyond being confused by what you're saying; at best, this person believes that you're being deliberately deceitful. At worst, he thinks you're a simpleton who has no idea what you're talking about. So how can you convince him that you're competent? Redo that can-do … and this time, shoot him a double brow-raise!

Raising one eyebrow is usually a means of expressing doubt about someone else.

Frown's in Town

Perhaps the easiest brow signal to read is the frown, which is usually interpreted as a sign of anger, but there are other times when people wear a knitted brow, namely during times of sadness or confusion. Imagine a small child trying to put a wheel back into his rollerblade after it's flown out of its socket. He's having a difficult time of it — that wheel just wants to stay out. What do you notice about the kid's face? His eyebrows are pointing downward, probably in a fairly severe manner. Is he angry that he's having so much trouble or confused about how to get the wheel back into place? Maybe a little of both. It's hard to tell by the brows alone, so you'll have to take a look at the rest of his face. (Pursed lips, for example, are a sign of frustration and/or anger, while an open mouth is usually a sign of confusion.)

Frowning can indicate anger, confusion, or frustration.

Interestingly, many patients request Botox in the area between the eyebrows in order to eliminate a “permanent” frown. The lines that appear in this region can make people look angry all the time. Ridding yourself of this facial gesture allows others to view you in a completely different light.

Sadness can also be seen in a frown, especially the types of sadness that lead people to deep and serious thought — events such as a breakup, an illness, recovering from being fired — anything that might trigger a sense of regret and a feeling that different actions might have prevented the situation. In these cases, the frowner may actually be contemplating some big issues in her life. The downward eyebrows are an indication of frustration and confusion.

If someone you know frowns almost constantly and walks into the wall on a regular basis, there's a good chance that he's suffering from poor vision. No need to read into his eye movements — get him to the optometrist!

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