Learning how to respond most effectively to your offspring’s emotional reactions to bad news.

Choose language: English | Português | Español

If you have already looked at Workplace or Law Enforcement, click here.

The goal in Responding Effectively training is to become more considered in how you respond to another person’s emotions, aware that there are always choices and tradeoffs.

RETT expects 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 Micro Expressions Training Tool and Subtle Expressions Training Tool. (You don’t need to also use Micro Expressions Intensive Training and Micro Expressions Profile Training Tool before using Responding Effectively training, but those training tools will expand and improve your ability to spot facial expressions.)

Uncertain about the difference between Responding Effectively, Micro Expressions, Subtle Expressions, and FACS?

Responding Effectively Training Tool helps you determine how to respond to someone’s emotional expressions. Responding Effectively Training Tool expects you already have acquired the skills to recognize facial expressions. Micro Expressions Training Tool and Subtle Expressions Training Tool are tools for sharpening your ability to recognize from facial expressions what someone is feeling. If you haven’t yet used Micro Expressions and Subtle Expressions, do so now and then come back and use RETT.

FACS (the Facial Action Coding tool) is a tool for measuring facial movements. It takes between 50-100 hours to learn. If your goal is to be more sensitive to recognizing emotions, especially concealed emotions, you want Micro Facial Expressions Training Tool or Subtle Facial Expressions Training Tool not FACS. If you want to learn what to consider when you respond to another person’s emotions you want PEG Interactive not FACS.

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, Micro Facial Expressions Training Tool will help you.
  • Micro expressions: these are very brief expressions that are so fast that most people do not see them. They 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 are very small expressions that are usually limited to just one area of the face. They occur either when an emotion is just beginning to be felt, or a leakage of concealed emotions.


In RETT: Family you will see a son or daughter’s emotional reactions when they hear unwelcome news from a father or mother. You will choose whether the parent you are about to see has a close or strained relationship with her or his son or daughter. You will see sadness first. Then, you will choose whether the child also shows anger or contempt.

You will be offered a number of choices about how to initially respond to your son or daughter’s emotions. After you make a choice, you will receive feedback from Dr. Ekman about the advantages or disadvantages of your choice. We encourage you to select all of the choices, even ones you might not ever consider saying, in order to learn from the feedback provided for each choice.

View the adolescent’s reactions when there is a close or strained relationship

  • What might be best to say depends not just on the adolescent’s emotional reactions, but the quality of the relationship the parent has with the adolescent. You will choose whether there is a close relationship, or a strained relationship.
  • You can switch from close to strained whenever you wish.
  • Once completed, click the ‘I’m Finished’ button to see a summary of the choices.


It is up to you: what to watch, what feedback to get, and how much of Responding Effectively training you use. Remember you don’t have to finish it all in one sitting. You have RETT for one year. Use the Navigation button to view where you are in the program and to change your selections. The choices are yours!


To make this most applicable to you, please answer the following questions:

  • I want to see a
  • with a
  • They have a

Change the relationship with your child

Change the emotional response of your child

Father Daughter Good Relationship Sadness


Before choosing your response, read through all the choices, then click to select the best one.
  • A) Say nothing; act as if there was no sad expression.
  • B) “I am sorry, but there is nothing I could do about it.”
  • C) “I am sorry, I wish it didn’t work out this way.”
  • E) “Please don’t blame me; you mother’s out of town, the baby-sitter is sick and it is vital to my job that I be at the boss’s dinner.”
  • F) “All of us face disappointments in life; you have to learn how to get used to it.”

Click here if you haven’t gone through all the available scenarios and responses.

Congratulations on completing the RETT: Family tool. Below is a summary of the different scenarios that may arise with suspects, and a recap of the best ways to respond. 

Remember that the primary goal of RETT is to help you become more considered in how you respond to another person’s emotions. Your ability to recognize and identify “micros” can be a key to forming your next question or response – especially if/when the displayed “micro” is a “hot spot”; i.e. inconsistent or contrary to what the subject (in this case, the suspect) is saying or doing.

Close Relationship

  • Sad Expression: Naming your child’s emotion — sadness, or disappointment — which may be more precise for this situation, will be helpful. Also expressing your regret about the situation and that you too are disappointed, is useful.
  • Angry Expression: Naming your child’s emotion is helpful — frustration — and saying: “I wish there was another way we could both do what we want to do.”

Strained Relationship

  • Sad Expression: It is hard to know what might be the best response because the relationship is strained, and sadness might cover more than one feeling. It may be best to say “I can see you are upset” — but not specifying the emotion. It also may be helpful to say, “I wish there was another way both of us could do what we had planned.”If your child’s sad expression was a micro or mini expression and not a macro expression, it may be better to say nothing. Your child might not be aware of what he or she is feeling, and it risks him or her feeling as if you don’t care.
  • Angry Expression: If your child has a micro or mini anger expression, consider saying nothing as your offspring might not be aware of the anger. If your child has a macro anger expression it would be better to name the feeling — frustration — and saying you wish there was another way.
  • Contempt Expression: It could be helpful to say that you also don’t like it and wish there was a way you could both do what you had planned. But you might be better off saying nothing if your relationship is severely strained.


RETT trains you to consider the first thing you’re going to say, not what will come next and next after that. While RETT should make you more thoughtful about what to say, it can’t 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.




Professor (Emeritus) Philip A. Cowan, University of California, Berkeley

Professor (Emerita) Dr. Carolyn Pape Cowan, University of California, Berkeley

Word renown experts on family communication