RE³: Responding Effectively to Emotional Expressions


How can you best respond to how people feel when you tell them unwelcome news?

  • When adolescents are told they have to cancel plans to go out that night with friends?
  • **When employees are told they didn’t get a promotion?
  • **When suspects are told they committed a serious crime?


Our new online interactive training tool Responding Effectively to Emotional Expressions (we refer to it as RE³) helps you figure out what to say and what not to say, and why.

RE³ assumes you already know how to spot the emotions that are displayed. The focus is not on how to recognize emotion but how to respond to emotions. If you want some help on recognizing emotion, go to the Face Suite and use METT3.0 and SETT 3.0. (You don’t need to also use METT profile and METT+ before using RE³, but those training tools will expand and improve your ability to spot facial expressions.)

Uncertain about the difference between RE³, METT, and SETT?

RE³ helps you determine how to respond to someone’s emotional expressions. RE³ assumes you already have acquired the skills to recognize facial expressions. METT and SETT are tools for sharpening your ability to recognize from facial expressions what someone is feeling. If you haven’t yet used METT and SETT, do so now and then come back and use RE³.

You will need to know the differences among macro, micro and mini (subtle) expressions to learn how to respond to them:

  • Macro expressions: these are the usual facial expressions that you can see without difficulty, because they typically are shown across the entire face, and last a few seconds. Most people don’t need help to spot macro expressions, but if you do, METT will help you.
  • Micro expressions: these very brief expressions (about 1/25 of a second) reveal attempts by people to conceal how they are feeling. They may be the result of deliberate suppression, or they may occur when people are unaware of how they are feeling, the result of unconscious repression.
  • Mini or Subtle expressions: These very small expressions, are usually limited to just one area of the face. They occur either when an emotion is just beginning to be felt, or leakage of concealed emotions.


The goal in RE³ is to become more considered in how you respond to another person’s emotions, more aware that there are always choices, and tradeoffs. While RE³ should make you more thoughtful about what to say, it does not train you how to say it – that would require in-person coaching.

If you want to learn more about emotions, what triggers them, and also how to respond to them, read Paul Ekman’s book Emotions Revealed, and his book co-authored with the Dalai Lama Emotional Awareness. If you are interested in Ekman’s ideas about how to increase compassion, read his latest book Moving Toward Global Compassion.