The Face is a universal system of signals, which reflect moment-to-moment fluctuations in people’s feelings – whomever, wherever and whenever, this universal method of communication doesn’t change. This means it’s invaluable in understanding the person in front of you.
Disgust is a feeling of aversion and shows the person communicating the feeling wants to avoid something, and this in itself can be for a multitude of reasons, from phobias and allergies, to fear. For example, the taste of something you want to spit out, even the thought of something in your mouth can make you feel disgusted. A smell can both make you feel disgusted, or could just be a strong feeling of dislike.

I Not Like

The function of Disgust is to keep revolting or dangerous stuff away from us. Even the actions and appearances of people and ideas can be disgusting. An interesting fact is that once a product leaves our bodies it becomes disgusting to us, e.g. spit or excrement. But it all makes sense as these things can easily be medically dangerous to us, especially when from another person or animal, often carrying disease.

This is often the reasoning behind the disgust reflex, to put us off potentially harmful situations whether through smell, taste, sound or sight.
Think about something you find revolting or disgusting. When I watch ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ and contestants are made to eat horrible things, I literally have the gag reflex (I think my imagination works a bit too well!) even though I’m not the one doing the eating.

What do you find revolting?

As an instructor, are you faced with situations that you find disgusting in your pupils, or is there anything about you that could be off-putting to your pupils? For example, bad breath, body odour, clothing, the cleanliness or smell of the car. There are plenty of things that can trigger disgust, and some can be fairly unique to particular individuals.

Just Say No

The facial signs of disgust are:
● The upper lip is raised as high as it can go
● The nose is wrinkled
It’s easy to make the ‘yuk’ noise whilst holding these facial muscles.

Often you will see a flicker of nose wrinkling when you ask someone to do something they don’t want to do, a simple identifying sign that they are not keen to comply. You may also see it when someone is talking and they themselves reveal with the flicker of the nose wrinkling that they don’t like what they are actually talking about, even if the words don’t portray that sentiment. This is a great example of how facial signs can reveal the truth through the words or actions. Regardless of what you might hear or read, there is no one simple sign of lying, but if a person doesn’t believe what they are saying themselves, an unintended wrinkling of the nose can often reveal the true feelings under the disguise. As with all emotions, facial expressions usually trigger us to ask questions and check our understanding. When it comes to general body language, a person who is feeling Disgust always moves away from and/or pulls back from whatever/whoever is making them feel disgusted. Remember, expressions do not tell you what is generating the emotion, only that the emotion is occurring; it’s our job to respond appropriately.

Not A Problem

So, how should we respond? Firstly, we need to be able to recognise Disgust ourselves when we feel it. Using a mirror, think of something that really revolts you and watch your face move automatically. You may also feel your throat close or a gag reflex. Disgust is an emotion never to be ignored if you spot it, but first of all, consider whether it is the right time and situation to be exploring the issue. Remember the disgust you see on a person’s face, may be directed towards themselves and not you! Questions to ask when you think it may be directed towards themselves: “Are you fed up of having to keep practising this manoeuvre?”, “Do you think it’s unfair…?”. Questions to ask if you
think the Disgust is directed towards you: “Is there something about today’s lesson that you dislike?”, “How can I make lessons more enjoyable for you?”. Disgust is a powerful and important emotion to recognise, and act on. We need to establish the reason for that feeling, understand it and rectify the situation if we want effective learning to take place.

Adrianne is running a training course specifically for ADIs on 9th September in Birmingham. Find out more: