This is a huge reason why I support WFH policies and personally take advantage of them. I don't personally feel the need to "fix" myself; doing so would involve putting on an artifice in order to placate people whose impression of me is founded on incorrect assumptions. It would make me feel like I was walking on eggshells, and it would take up precious mental bandwidth which would be better spent on the work problem at hand.
WFH means management of my facial expression is one less thing I have to worry about, since people can only see my Zoom avatar at best, and usually only see the section of the laptop screen that I'm sharing. Counter to what anti-WFH advocates say, it actually makes me more likely to form close bonds with my coworkers, since they're less likely to jump to conclusions about my demeanor and personality if they aren't privy to my facial expression.
Mentioned in my Quantified Self talk here at 1m 15s: https://vimeo.com/42239564#t=1m15s
This led to the development of LifeSlice, which lets anyone do the same, and I now have s as decade of 30-min periodic selfies. Not sure what I’ll do with them all but it’s interesting to see myself age. :)
I don’t look angry, but can confirm that I’m at best expressionless when concentrating at the computer.
nowadays I'm very often a flaming angry coder but that's real anger. It feels the same as when you get angry to press the fire button really fast in a video game, kind of thing. It's been a major issue for decades now as if there are any other people around, I have to really watch my mannerisms and mumblings because there have been negative outcomes from it.
I've also sprinted with other devs who do the same thing. Plus I think it occurs in other fields, like my old drum teacher when I watch him in videos, when he's going for some dramatic drum thing, his face turns to total anger and it is definitely some kind of visceral animal thing you tap into when trying to succeed in a tight space.
I don’t care how I look while focusing on my computer screen, maybe that’s a feature. But I do mind how I look when I’m just existing in the world.
I now hold my face consciously in an ever so light smile and it has made a big difference. Especially when entering social situations like a bar or party. Damn you, Resting bitch face!
That sort of ignorance is death on a bun for software innovation in MBA heavy organizations where non-technical project/product managers rule the roost.
Beyond perception management there's the issue of avoiding unnecessary interruptions. It can be hard to define what's necesary and what isn't. Rarely does it have anything to do with what someone is interrupting you for but instead, it is (once again) it's perception management.
There is a context-switching contest that comes from being interrupted and it can be hard to get back in the zone. So you want to avoid people interrupting you to ask something that would quite literally be the first link on a trivial Google search.
I always thought this was just some sort of trope and not a real thing, but then one time my monitor went blank suddenly and I saw myself.
But I also think that I look angry because I _am_ angry.
Anger allows us to increase arousal and helps us focus on an 'obstacle' and programming presents many obstacles.
It's self defeating however, because working in this way is exhausting.
In working with a close friend, who programs much more patiently and methodically, I'm slowly learning to let go of my 'ADD' (Anger Driven Development).
I think I used to consider the slow and steady approach to be plodding, and using my intense approach I really could get a lot of great work done very fast, but after a few burnouts, I had to find another way.
But coding while angry also has another major downside. Anger narrows your focus of attention on what you consider to be the 'threat' or 'obstacle', and anyone who's done technical work knows that the solution is often found by divergent thinking.
Edit: Many people are saying that they only look angry, and that they actually aren't angry. This may be 100% true, but the facial feedback hypothesis suggests that when you make an angry face, your internal state tends towards anger.
The more enthused I am about things the more scary I am to other mammals, apparently. Don't have any real advice to offer: I deal with it by working alone.
Story time: Shortly after I was hired at SiemensVDO, my group leader came by just to say "Hi" and looking at him with my "concentrated" face I asked in a husky voice "What do you want?". Totally caught him by surprise, so he barely mumbled "I only wanted to say Hi" and walked away. The floor was open office, with at least 50 people in the room. He was known as a very severe manager, which demanded a lot from the programmers (also he was a former Uni teacher hired by Siemens 10 years earlier), and whenever he was entering our big room, everybody rushed to look busy and kept their head down, not wanting to be caught in his gaze.
Funny thing about the situation is that I was unaware it was him when I said that, and only after he left I fully understood what just happened. In any case, he was severe but also a just manager and recognized hard workers. After that little incident he treated me differently than any other person in that floor. When talking with me he started using a "sweet" voice, reserved only for his bosses while continuing to use his "rough" voice with everybody else. I became "de facto" person to tell him unpleasant stuff for that room, and funny enough this led to an even better relation between us. One of the best managers I had in my 10 years tenure throughout different corporations before I became freelancer.
However, I did pick up some light morning yoga since my schedule was so packed I couldn't go to a class but I needed some additional stress relief.
I noticed that after I started doing that (part of the yoga video involved actively relaxing your face), I tended to adopt that relaxed face a lot more. It was serene, welcoming - compared to my very intense normal visage given the stress levels.
Suddenly people not only reacted to me in a much more honest and direct way which made things easier. I then decided to ramp it up and use that face explicitly on calls and meetings - where I was received very very well (even conference calls without video). I gained visibility with the client higher-ups. In fact, I could probably still be working for them if I wanted to (ended contract as my first kid was on the way - too much travel).
It's not a lot of time investment and a great learning lesson.
I do it when I play guitar or piano, too. I've had people ask me why I'm angry when I'm playing. My mom did it, too, when she played play piano.
I just figure it's because I'm focusing so hard on what I'm doing that I stop concentrating on my expression.
"What the actual fuck!?" "Are you serious!?" slams both hands on keyboard "Uuummmmmmmmm..." "Whyyyyyyyy"
Then you lean into the monitor and continue searching.
Personally, I sigh loudly. Not out of annoyance or fatigue, I just sigh.
I've also been routinely mistaken for somebody with military service history. I guess something to do with how I glare
Skeptical it's about how I dress, it hasn't significantly changed since I was a teenager. Purely focused on comfort. I can't be bothered to buy clothes!
I've also been told I have a smile that lights up a room; people can't make up their minds... or maybe it really melts this angry image
Being angry while coding means you're using the wrong tech stack i think. Fix that.
I noticed this in high school once. I was reading at a table and someone across from me wanted my attention. I glanced up at them without moving my head, and they were like, "geez, sorry to bother you, we'll talk later." But I wasn't annoyed, I'd miscommunication with my body language.
So, I have trained myself turn around suddenly with a big smile and cheerfully say "How are you doing :-) :-) :-)
It seems ridiculous, but better that the alternative.
I can't control it though, it's just that naturally I get a frown with squinting eyes when I'm deep in thoughts, or looking sideways while I left my mind wander around the problem I'm thinking about.
From what I observe with colleagues and friends it seems to be pretty natural as well. My housemates doing their PhDs usually look super-pissed when studying or analysing data at home.
On top of that the general disconnect from the normal world when you are deep entrenched in your thoughts probably doesn't look inviting either, haha. I just think it's quite normal in my experience.
I have to consciously turn up my mouth corners ever so slightly, relax my facial expression. It's not about turning into a fake smile. It can be a subtle change, but you immediately will spot change in your facial expression. And others (including strangers) will spot it too.
Look in the mirror at your natural expression and try the tiniest change to your expression. You'll immediately spot the change to you expression.
A meek scowl is more than enough to keep water cooler longer-ongers away.
I compensate that with dazzling and addicting presentations at meetings coupled with colorful proses.
In ny gut I think there is a relationship between his happy nature and not knowing how to be angry. It's kind of like he doesn't have a middle ground of being angry.It's his happy face 90% of the time, then super angry face when annoyed. An angry face which is not really representative of who he is.
ok I made it up.
Also mandatory Seinfeld reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kafq7yrKAOQ
And like many others, I can also look like I'm experiencing other emotions because I am. But I have a resting angry face, and it gets more extreme the more deeply I am thinking.
My wife works in a company with programmers, and they keep their webcams off during virtual meetings because, "We don't want people to see our thinking faces." Yes, that is an exact quote.
IMO, our current lifestyle is certainly not making this any better.
100 years earlier, people communicated/worked with people face to face most of the time. Knowledge work (i.e in your head) was way less frequent. Screens, totally absent.
Apparently if I’m very focused, in the zone, on a problem; I look totally pissed off.
If anything all my emotions are turned off when I’m like that.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been highly disoriented after someone grabs my attention to find out what’s wrong.
Many other people have reported that I appear "unapproachable" when I am working, although the opposite is true. I am one of the most friendly, helpful, and jolly person that I know.
"When you look annoyed all the time, people think that you're busy!"
I look angry to the point some people may find discomforting to work with me. It is their biggest flaw not to know how to handle coworkers who look angry like me.
I have this expression when focused on work, playing sports, and at music concerts.
edit: misplaced modifier
My face tends to tense up toward a frown when I’m focused and the smile helps a lot.
Also, my 9-year-old daughter makes the same face when she is focusing.
My father, who is not a software developer but a white-collar worker as well, is the same way.
I guess a 6"2 dude glaring angrily at his screen all day is a bit scary
*edit. ha.. now I'm self-conscious I just noticed that my internal monologue leaks out sometimes.. and my internal monologue can use some fairly blue words at times...
May be apocryphal.
Solution: relax the masseter every now and then.
I had to get glasses.
- Built with Rage
With a smiley
And then don't care anymore :)
But right now I'm smiling! :)
I didn't want to get deep wrinkles (female vanity) or hold angry look (stress headaches/blood flow) because i think that posture towards work is damaging and subconsciously enforces notions from culture/childhood that doing/learning is "hard" "battle" "tough" etc, and
this starts the cascade of physical effects that those states would, like "bracing myself", changing breathing patterns to shallow and stiff, rigid muscles etc, leaning head forward a stupid degree, adrenaline/ anxiety chemicals, harming eyesight with needless strain etc.
Also increases procrastination because you've decided everything is difficult and risky and dangerous, which your ego wants to avoid at all costs.
I reprogrammed myself with thoughts about "childs mind" "how would a kid savant see this puzzle" and "what if this is super easy???" regardless of evidence haha...just mimicking the face and mannerisms and sounds like some form of method acting. Face muscles are like a curious zen baby buddha now lol, open and relaxed but wide eyed, and I have a set of funny/curious gestures too lighten my own mood during long sessions, exaggerated hmmmmmmmmm????, "curiouser and curiouser!!!" type stuff I stole from movies and happy memes
(and the muscle movements I remapped to ones that aid vanity (girls know this as facial yoga lol, work cheekbone muscles etc instead of furrowing brow)
beware of differences between home/office tho,
I literally gave myself 'Tourette's' when i reprogrammed myself to say a certain thing (OUT! and related easy to say exclamations) when upsetting negative/thoughts/memories intruded on my mind during a difficult time, and it worked wonderfully to dispel thought immediately and stay on task/positive when I'm working on work/hobbies at home.
Bad thing is I realized I kept doing it on outside on walks I was using to think thru problems, and a few times someone actually turned their head when I was talking to myself. Just pretended to be on a phone call/blue tooth haha... So I re-mapped the more common ones to deep breath exhalation and more subtle "tics" that have no social cost in public.
I also use the "talking to self out loud" for heavy stuff that only comes up sometimes. If you're working thru mental baggage, you can literally say stuff like "get out of my head ghost of shitty father" when you catch yourself ruminating on the past or feeling criticized or becoming like a bad parent etc. This "externalizing" is really effective for me. I also renamed certain recurrent baggage, such as calling father issues "Iago" as short hand (evil Shakespeare ref), or memories of harmless yet cringey stuff I map as dopey cartoon characters that fail in same ways. This really helps me create emotional distance and feel more in control, I guess that ultimately depends on how imaginative you are.
(I don't have any family history of schizophrenia and never use drugs, so I guess I'm not worried about this getting out of hand, shrug. And in the privacy of your own home, who cares?)
All these are ways to just keeping your mental landscape clear, maybe ten years of meditation would do the same but this suits me just fine for now.
I prevent doom scrolling sometimes by saying out loud "nice try culture war ya almost got me!" when I feel outrage. Catching your own mental reactions becomes easier as you practice the muscle.
In the kingdom of your skull you can think anything you want and create your own tools. Life is a state of mind.
I don't know if this helps most or if you need a certain temperament. My mindset is somehow both extremely open AND extremely judgmental at the same time, so I'm very friendly to all woo that may help yet feel zero loyalty to the media source/guru that developed it, just steal what works and dip haha
More 'rational' folks I've tried to share with are allergic to this mental-DIY stuff, yet casually harp on about potentials of nootropics or amphetamines or shrooms, eyeroll...
I require no evidence to try anything that has essentially no harms / costs / cults and just take the good, cut out the bad, and tailor it to myself ¯\_(ツ)_/¯