I've gotten this feedback from those around me for years. Even before I was a coder, when I was an ESL teacher in China, I had multiple students approach me (those I had made friends with, they were all 20-somethings and over) and ask me if I was OK, because I looked angry. I appreciated their concern but I didn't feel angry, so I had no clue what they were talking about. It was only later that I learned about the concept of a "resting ___ face", and that I might possess one.

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.

I was inspired by a friend who saved hundreds of Webcam selfies of himself at half hour intervals. The API classified the majority as “sad” or “angry”.

Mentioned in my Quantified Self talk here at 1m 15s:

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.

When I was in second grade, which per my timeline, was many years before anyone had access to "a computer" outside of a college lab, I recall doing some kind of arts and crafts thing, or fixing a pen, or something, and I channeled a bit of my dad's energy and got very focused on this task. In second grade, it was before they shuttled me off to the gifted and talented program with other "smart kids" so the other kids sort of looked on me as an unusual weirdo, pretty standard stuff, but anyway, this girl that was watching me do whatever it was said, "you look angry", and I realized that channeling my dad's "let's fix this" energy did specifically include some facial contortion that pretty much looked like anger.

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 found out relatively recently that I look angry when I relax my face. It makes me sad to think how less approachable it has made me over the years. Maybe even lost me some opportunities where someone might have started talking to me or something.

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!

This is one reason legacy companies have a hard time executing on software creation. They fundamentally don't understand wtf those engineers are doing. Just ITT alone there are engineers who have been characterized as daydreaming, angry and sad when in fact they were building "castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination." to quote Fred Brooks.

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.

"Do you suffer from Bitchy Resting Face"
Yes, I'm angry. Stop staring at me asking if I'm okay. I'm commanding lightning to do my bidding.
Mandatory Seinfeld reference [1]. Honestly, this is good advice. So much of work is actually just perception management. Looking annoyed or angry without actually being mean or inconsiderate is a bit of a cheat code.

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 stick my tongue out to the side like a cartoon character.

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.

Yes, I was once interrupted by a co-worker while I was working, and he just said "Smile." Part of working in the panopticon.
A coworker once walked around to my side of the desk to see what I was looking at on my screen. It was just some code that I'd written. They were surprised, and said it looked like I was staring at a picture of something truly disgusting.
I do and I also display other strong emotions such as disgust, surprise etc.

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.

I am more 'angry' when I'm coding. Maybe it's also so people won't interrupt me? But mainly I think it's because when I code I enter a different mode which isn't as sociable. It's like the human interface task gets pushed down in priority. I once scared someone who interrupted me and all I did was look up at them... They left in a hurry. I literally wasn't trying to do that and I apologized to them later.

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.

I do. I'm frowning but I'm unaware. It is just my "I'm concentrated" face.

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.

My SO always tells me I look worried while working. Used to ask me whats wrong, nowadays just accepts is as a sign that I 'm focusing.
One thing that I remember is a tough consulting project where I travelled every week to a customer site (note: long long ago).

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.

Yes, apparently I am in the Focused/Angry Face cohort. When I am reading deeply, or thinking through complex issues I must be wearing a scary face as it prompts my wife to ask “ are you ok?” Which always makes me angry as it breaks my concentration. As far as I know, until interrupted I was in a neutral emotional state .
Of course I look angry – I work with computers all day
I was finishing up some work with my camera on during group meeting. Someone had their young child on their lap, and the kid asked "Daddy, who's the angry man?"
Yes, absolutely, I do, and not just when writing code. I used to work on retail self-service kiosks, and I'd sometimes have to work in the hardware lab around the QA engineers, who for some reason at this company tended to be very perky, gregarious extraverts. They'd see me in there chasing down a bug on one of the kiosks, and invariably they'd ask what's wrong or tell me to cheer up or ask if maybe I'd heard something about the latest round of layoffs.

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.

If your brain is not operating in the same mode used for hunting animals, are you even in flow?
Yes, anger fuels my thirst for blood. While I'm hunting down a bug or digging into a design decision's history. It's not rage (usually), it's more like a mixture of frustration and curiosity. Bewildered and tempting. It's almost as if I'm being teased, but I know there's actually a good reason, somewhere.

Common lines:

"What the actual fuck!?" "Are you serious!?" slams both hands on keyboard "Uuummmmmmmmm..." "Whyyyyyyyy"

Then you lean into the monitor and continue searching.

I have total resting bitch face, folks sometimes ask what in the meeting made me so mad. Really annoying.
Frowning faces are common while deep in thoughts.

Personally, I sigh loudly. Not out of annoyance or fatigue, I just sigh.

American focus on looking happy or smiling when nothing happens that warrants it is truly bewildering.
*My natural relaxed neutral expression is a frown. I have to exert effort just to position my mouth in a neutral (not frowning, not smiling) position. While walking to the coffee maker in an office, people will often ask me what's wrong. *On the other hand, sometimes when out in public at a store or whatever, I'll force a smile at a stranger, and they almost always smile back. *So I have to assume that my natural frowning face probably hurts my daily interactions.
Not only when I work... I generally look mad; somewhat permanently furrowed brow, I suppose

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

Yes, but only because I am angry.
I think it's not related (Angry vs Focus).

Being angry while coding means you're using the wrong tech stack i think. Fix that.

Well I am constantly muttering "FFS" while battling with my code/compiler, so maybe.
I think it's easy to look angry when you're focusing at a desk, because you're looking down. Which sort of gives the impression of glowering. If you're giving some the stink eye, upright and facing them, you tilt your head forward (though maybe this is cultural? Not sure). When you're at your desk, other people are at a kinda similar angle.

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.

When I am in the zone and people talk to me, I have a tendency to turn around suddenly, startled and distracted.

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.

Yes, I do. Every time I've seen a picture of me when I was focused on something I look pissed.

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.

Yes. When I'm super focused on something my wife will walk in the room and ask my what I'm so angry about. I've also been told that my typing seems angry, usually when the words are flowing easily and I'm typing extra fast.
I don't look angry when focusing at the computer, instead I just look miserable! You know how the corners of your mouth are turned down (looking miserable) and you simply forget how you look (even if you are peforming a pleasant task).

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.

Yes. It is my ADHD coping mechanism to being able to mad-code at breakneck speed.

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.

Yeah, any time I'm engaged in deep thought, including coding, I just... look angry. I've had to explain to people at work that that's just how my face is when I'm working.
I used to. It was an subconscious reflection of my personal life. Things changed, and I changed. It's probably not the same for everyone, but that was it for me. Work is much less tiring now.
My adult son is the most happy person I know but often makes angry faces. He also has night terrors. Nightmares he doesn't remember.

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.

Yes, and if you interrupt me to ask me if I'm angry, then I'm going to both look like I'm angry and actually be angry. Leave me alone, I have work to do! :p
My resting face makes people assume I'm very focused. I usually am, but only to the activity, not the task. People tends not to approach me as they assume I'm very busy, both a pro and a con in a social setting. I also realize I made some people uncomfortable, as they are not used to such investigative gaze. But the real pro is that people never really try to bullshit me or pester me with petty concerns.
When the eyebrows get closer, the pathways for neurons are cleared out and information flows easier. Of course, the consequence of that is you look angry.

ok I made it up.

I have probably looked angry while working because people tell me I look angry in general, probably more so when I'm in focused but it has never stopped anyone from interrupting me while I'm working.

Also mandatory Seinfeld reference:

If I'm working with other people, usually rest my chin in my hand and cover my mouth when I concentrate specifically to signal that I'm not angry and can be approached because my eyes often suggest otherwise. It's not really a conscious effort or anything, but it certainly changes my expression from "angry" to "furrowed brow."
I do.

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.

I'm not sure if I look angry but I genuinely am angry when writing code. I don't know why but when I get in the zone I grow increasingly angry and aggravated. It's not a particularly fun way to be but it has been the case for as long as I remember.
Can relate, even at uni people told me I look unapproachable but it's just the concentration face (I want to believe).
I do. Now I try to consciously reconnect more with my (extremely sophisticated) face muscles (a mirror helps)

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.

Yep. I got the all the time. Co workers, spouse, etc.

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.

I set up a webcam to take selfies every few minutes last year because someone made the same comment to me. Turns out I look like I’m fully prepared to kill when I’m focused intently on something. Which is weird, because I’m rarely actually angry, and when my face is relaxed I look pretty genial.
I was born with congenital RBF (Resting Bitch Face) and it's been a mild inconvenience in my work and relationships. I've actually tried to adjust my neutral face as a result just so that I don't freak out bystanders when I'm waiting for a bus or looking at a restaurant menu.
My SO of 7 years postponed approaching me for months because she thought that I am a generally angry person.

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.

I look angry most of the time and concentrating makes it much worse, so yes. That said, I'm a total introvert and very misanthropic in my outlook, so I actively cultivate the pissed look, it keeps people away and that's exactly what I'm trying to accomplish with it.
Perhaps you've just taken on the George Costanza method of looking busy.

"When you look annoyed all the time, people think that you're busy!"

Yes, I do. And I made that my favorite answer to the now famous interview question: "What is your biggest flaw?"

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 know I do. It's more or less RBF. I wish people would judge less on looks before getting to know you. At least your friend asked about it and didn't just assume anything about you. :)

I have this expression when focused on work, playing sports, and at music concerts.

I know that I at least sound angry.
If I were angry whilst at the cafe, and received a photo of myself, looking angry—I'm pretty sure that'd make it worse. An unusual way to show concern, but I guess that's the age we live in.

edit: misplaced modifier

It has been said of me too, on a few occasions! Resting concentration face.
I can see myself without moving by changing focus. (Recently broke a screen and got a glossy as replacement and use a dark theme.) Look neutral but need to avoid scrunching between the eyes.
Best thing about WFH is being able to swear out loud every few minutes.
Doesn't everyone? Coding is frustrating. Comes with the territory.
I look angry all the time, they call it "resting bitch face"
I don't look angry while I'm programming (unless I'm really struggling with a bug) but can get very anti-social and short, which has been perceived as me being angry.
This happened with a friend. Anytime he read anything, his face made this big snarl like he was offended at what he was reading. It turned out he just needed reading glasses.
I've been told I look scary walking around the office. I realize I walk quickly and determined on my way between meetings. Apparently it made me look aggressive and scary.
Idk. we just have to assume people are fine even if it is not expressed through their face. There are other indicators for distress, such as tears or literally angry faces.
Yes. For some reason my concentration face looks like a rage face
I make a point every hour to look away from my computer and smile with the biggest smile I can muster.

My face tends to tense up toward a frown when I’m focused and the smile helps a lot.

Gerald Weinberg in one of his books talked about training himself to look less forbidding. I suppose that it was Secrets of Consulting, but am not sure.
I absolutely look angry when I code. There’s even photo proof from various conferences. Still love the results even if I’m grinding my teeth the whole time.
yep, emotionally i felt stressed and anxious during work , that i started to notice now, so i put my mobile on a corner and recorded a time-lapse, i seem visually angry or anxious as well,also on a out of work thing, when on family event i was so trying to make sure everything goes right, my friends and relatives pointed out that i seemed angry and cheer up, so my focus mode connected to angry and anxious i think

Also, my 9-year-old daughter makes the same face when she is focusing.

Learned this tip from George Costanza: "I always look annoyed. Yeah, when you look annoyed all the time, people think that you're busy"
People have told me that my "concentration face" is very forbidding. And I do tend to swear under my breath a lot while I work too.
Yes, absolutely. Have received this feedback multiple times.

My father, who is not a software developer but a white-collar worker as well, is the same way.

I always get the feedback that I look very angry when playing the piano. I guess it applies to me concentrating on other tasks as well.
haha apparently.. I'm a big softy but was told the other day that people are afraid to approach me because I scare them.

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...

I know I type angry. That noise isn't the switches, it's just me. I added rubber rings but it only helps a little.
Yes, apparently, according to several people. Doesn't seem to occur with some forms of concentration (ex: reading fiction).
I read somewhere that there is feedback from facial muscles to the brain. They found people using Botox were actually calmer.

May be apocryphal.

The best indicator for how angry I am at work is the force I hit the enter key with, and the loudness of the resulting clack.
I look angry while I work, because I typically am angry. Have you heard the things people say in meetings?
It might be that you are clenching your teeth while working. This makes one look angry.

Solution: relax the masseter every now and then.

My concentration face looks like I'm daydreaming, and I've been called out for not paying attention.
Definitely, a coworker asked me some time ago what I was frowned up on only to answer him I was just focused
I just look clueless. I am not clueless.
Earlier, people used to say this because they thought I was frowning. Actually, I was squinting!

I had to get glasses.

Resting Business Face. Yes. You can tell how hard I'm working by how hard I'm cursing.
I don't know if I look angry, but I can make a lot of strange noises while programming.
Not while working, but I've been told I look like a serial killer when driving.
I have the most terrible frown when I’m concentrating. Not great for the wrinkles.
I've been told, by a coworker no less, that I have RBF (resting bitch face).
Probably. I often feel like I'm trying to beat the hell out of the code.
Same when I play videogames.
I think people can't differentiate between concentration and anger.
No, but I look annoyed while I work so everyone thinks I'm busy.
Oh I do for sure. I don't know why. Curious to read responses.

- Built with Rage

Add a sign: if i look angry, I'm just focused.

With a smiley

And then don't care anymore :)

100%. I do not look happy when looking at a screen.
I had a co-worker call it RBF. Resting Bitch Face.
Only when I’m talking to idiot managers.
I think I have RBF and always look angry.
I feel you. I get the same thing a lot
Only when reading hacker news
Haha! Yes!

But right now I'm smiling! :)

You can reprogram all these types of things, just by re-habiting them for a week or so.

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)_/¯

absolutely. it's due to my co-workers, mostly.
no. I am angry while I work.