Fix Your Face
Nicki Minaj Tips on Non Verbal Communication
Trill or Not Trill?


Some of my favorite student leaders, make the most unusual faces. One rolls his eyes every 15 words. Another curls up her lips like something funky has landed into the room. If you work in student affairs or in any field for that matter you see them all. There’s the silent giggle face and the popular side eye. The resting B face and affirming head nod. When it’s all said and done, there are too many grimaces, glares and as Tyra once coined, smizes to count.

A few weeks back, Nicki Minaj was called out on Twitter for an apparent shade filled facial expression made towards Jennifer Lopez’s rendition of a Minaj song. Frankly, the online reaction was ridiculous but it reminded me of the gift and curse of being a student leaders. Eyes are always going to be on you. Your non verbal communication will directly affect the way people perceive you. Before seeing your leadership skills in action, that random side eye could immediately provide an unfair label. It’s not your job to always worry about what people think, but as a leader it is something you should be aware of.  With the help of the queen of facial expressions, here are some ways to work on those non verbals.


When A Student tells you they can’t come to the program because they’re busy

nicki seriously face
Now we all know they’re going back to to chill in the cafeteria for a 7th round of spades and dominoes. They’ve been there all day and even your offer of free pizza and a dope speaker won’t bring them in. Avoid this face by remembering all the people you’ll be impacting instead. In baseball, if you hit the ball just 4 out of 10 times, you’ll be the greatest hitter of all time. Know that you’ll have some students in that room who might experience a game changing event. Focus on those you can influence, not the ones who don’t care.

When your advisor says you aren’t allowed to impeach the entire Eboard

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People aren’t pulling their weight and you’re fed up. You’ve made this face after they missed another meeting because they forgot to put it in their phone.  This is the look when the advisor says they haven’t done enough to get the boot. In this case, instead of losing your cool, go find help. You can avoid this face by knowing that there are active and young members ready to take on responsibility. Give other, more willing people some tasks and keep the machine moving. If the people who were elected aren’t going to show up, trust that there are other people will.

When a fellow REsident Assistant calls you out in front of the residents

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The dreaded side eye can show its face on so many occasions. Teamwork makes the dream work but when a fellow leader calls you out for a mistake or not knowing something, it’s the worst. In this case you might think a side eye is warranted. We should always work out differences away from the audience. When something like this happens, avoid this face by thinking about the larger goal at hand. Whether it be new students, club members or residents, they are the ones we should pay attention to. Don’t go for tit for tat. This might have been a accident by your partner, board member or Co-RA. Take them aside and have a conversation instead of a face off.

When that 1st year student from your Orientation group says they want to get involved


Not many things makes a person feel better than a good old head nod. Seeing that energetic kid (who you knew had all the potential) becoming interested in student leadership is a beautiful thing. They are looking up to you whether you want to believe it or not. They are also watching you. Those students know who’s in the audience when they make a strong comment in a club meeting. When those emerging student leaders are the ones who stops a noise violation on their own, they see you. So, when the positive head nod appears, it builds confidence for others. It’s a sign of belief. Let’s Go!

When food service says they don’t have your order for the program

nicki minaj what

Wait you said what?  or  WTF is this? These are both questions that fit the moment. This is one of the hardest faces to bypass. When people see this, the initial reactions aren’t going to be good. In this case, it’s important to use verbal cues. Fight the face by leaning on your expertise. Whenever you run into a situation that  makes you say HUH, remember your training.  I tell my students this all the time. The more you go back to your experience, the less you’ll be shocked. Next step; start thinking of the solutions.

When you get a compliment for Just doing your job


I hate when people tell you to smile. Not smiling doesn’t equate to a bad day. When all else fails though, it often brightens up other people’s day. As a leader it isn’t your job to do so. It’s tough to be on at all times. In terms of compliments and positive feedback though, a smile a day will certainly keep the detractors away. Be proud and humble about accomplishments and enjoy those moments.

When someone asks you if everything is ok

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This was classic,“I’m not really paying attention” resting face. This could also be “I wonder what time the cafeteria closes” resting face.   Your resting face isn’t always in your control. Unfortunately, when you are in some sort of limelight, the camera and critique comes your way. In this case, when such a face could be unavoidable, let your work do the talking. People will care less about your face when the results do the talking. Perception and unfair judgement will happen, but your excellence will always find ways to shine through.  The more work you put in, the more people will know who you are and the less they’ll care about that lovely mug of yours.



Stay trill, folks.

MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 4 books of poetry, including his latest, Deconstructing Ratchet. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at