I recently experienced first hand the effect of something that Mrs Bob has told me about time and time again, regarding facial my expressions, or lack thereof.
The night started off at work as any normal evening would. It was fairly busy, and with a great vibe going on in the restaurant, which carried on throughout the evening, I was even doing the whole walking around talking to the guests and practising my smalltalk.
It was a busy night, and when one of the waiting staff went home, they gave me information about remaining diners. When the kitchen staff checked to see if they were needed further, I checked on what I’d been told was the only table who were considering dessert. They declined, so I informed the kitchen staff that they were finished for the evening.
A couple of minutes later, another table asked about dessert. I asked if they could give me a minute, and went to let the kitchen know not to leave, but this is where it all went wrong. As I returned to the table wanting dessert, one of the diners seemed very annoyed and snapped that I should forget it if I was going to be rude.
I was rather confused and said that I wasn’t being rude at all, but they were convinced that I was. I was unsure what I’d done, so I asked, and was told, “your facial expression.” This was something I hadn’t expected, so I was rather taken aback but when I tried to explain that I don’t really have facial expressions, they just laughed.
The owner went over to apologise to the table and I prepared the front of house for closing, as it was that time. However, when I went to leave as usual, the owner and customers were still there. I was brought into the conversation by the owner, which made my anxiety sky-rocket. It had been explained to the customer that I “see things differently”, and I apologised and assured them again that I genuinely hadn’t meant to seem rude. I explained that I’m autistic and that, as a result, my facial expressions don’t always match my emotional state. That means that I can look angry when I’m really not, and I can’t tell that my expression is giving that impression.
This is often culturally referred to as “resting bitch face”. One psychological term is “Flat Affect”, which describes a lack of emotional facial reactivity or incorrect facial reactivity; basically I get asked regularly why I’m in a bad or sad mood based on my facial expressions. I could be really calm, relaxed and minding my own business; I could be socially anxious, but no matter what my mood, I still get asked what’s wrong.
The fact is that, as an autistic adult, I have difficulty in processing emotions physically and emotionally. Therefore, I’m genuinely not aware of my facial expression and, as with many of us on the spectrum, what is showing on my face is, most of the time, certainly not how I feel inside. I realise that this can be misleading for other people, but I can’t change and suddenly know how to control my expression.
So please, just because we might look angry, try to remember that it’s possibly not how we feel inside. On top of that, there is the anxiety and stress from trying to process the situation we are in, so although we might not be smiling on the outside, inside we might be doing our happy dance. Below is an example of Resting Bitch Face taken when i was not angry at all.
Stay Safe X