Asian Poker Face: Unmasking the Emotions of Paper Tigers

By JT Tran

Dude, are you mad or something?

This typically was one of the first things my friends would say to me when we’d meet up. Not “hi,” not “how are you,” not, “hey, what’s up,” or something normal like that. They thought I was just an angry or bitter Asian man.

Now, I have always considered myself to be one of the more level-headed and happy-go-lucky people in my social group, but for some reason, people around me saw my body language and facial expression showing a perpetually pissed-off, angry Asian.

I was a paper tiger.

It was pretty bewildering to go out feeling great, only to get those good vibes get chipped away little by little each time someone would ask me something like that. And it’s not like they were trying to make me feel bad. On the contrary, they had the best intentions for me– they were my friends, and they were concerned for my well being. But what I didn’t know at the time is that they all subconsciously detected the “angry Asian” affliction I had without even really knowing what it was– The Asian Poker Face.

The Asian Poker Face is a term that I coined to describe the emotionless, expressionless, stone-like appearance that afflicts practically all Asian men that I have come across throughout my life, including the one that I see in the mirror every day. It makes even happy Asian guys who are totally unaware look like some angry Asians.

There are many causes, but I believe that certain factors typical in most Asian households contribute to Asian Poker Face– overbearing parental enforcement of studying, tutoring, and doing homework, subtle day-to-day parental enforcement of the age-old Asian adage that “the nail that sticks out gets hammered even more,” and the fine example set by Asian parents who already have it and teach by example–unfortunate facts of life for the typical paper tiger household. Of course there are many more factors that could contribute to such a complex affliction as Asian Poker Face, but whatever those may be, the most important thing to keep in mind here is how it hurts you, and what you need to do to fix it.

Women are emotional beings. They don’t do things the way we do when it comes to communication. We provide information, statistics, and cold, hard facts. When we talk to each other, it’s usually brief and to the point, and after the point gets across, we’re done.

Women, on the other hand, communicate in an entirely different way. For them, communication is more about feelings and emotions and less about numerics and details. To a woman, a single, fleeting, momentary expression on another person’s face tells her more than an hour’s worth of talking.

Facial expressions (along with several other non-verbal forms of communication that will be addressed in a separate article), are so important to a woman, that if there was any incongruence between what a man said and what a man’s facial expressions indicated, like with an Asian Poker Face, that woman would ignore what was said and only go with what was communicated to her by the man’s facial expressions. The last thing you want a girl to do is look at you an mistake your Asian Poker Face for that of an angry Asian.

That’s why in cheesy romance movies, it’s very common to see a guy tell something to a girl that is 100% true, only to have her storm off and say, “I don’t believe you!” That’s also why a girl, even if she is genuinely attracted to you, may not respond warmly to your opening pickup line if you don’t communicate the right message with your facial expressiveness.

You could have the smoothest lines, a confident posture and demeanor, the trendiest clothes, and you might even have her attracted to you strictly on the basis of your appearance. But if you give her an Asian Poker Face and your facial expressions are void of any kind of emotion, your chances of hooking up with her are pretty slim. An emotionless Asian Poker Face looks like an angry Asian face; they’re the same thing to non-Asians.

So, here are a few simple steps and exercises you can work on right away to get your Asian Poker Face handled and instead use it to your advantage when it comes to attracting members of the opposite sex:

1. Fun: Always make sure your facial expressions convey how much fun you’re having! That doesn’t mean that you’re grinning like a hyena, but just that you’re relaxed, comfortable, and enjoying your time at whatever venue it is you’re at. After all, any guy who is surrounded by beautiful women should definitely be enjoying himself. Just don’t look like an angry Asian.

2. Awareness: In addition to being aware of what your face is conveying, you also need to be aware of what the girl’s face is conveying. Figure out a way to adjust the level of emotions you’re conveying to just slightly above the level of emotions that she is at. Maybe she’s momentarily distracted by something that just crossed her mind.

If you take just a moment to reflect that back to her and show her that you can connect with her on a subtle and non-verbal level like this, there’s a pretty good chance that she’ll forget about whatever was bothering her and bring herself up to your emotional state, which should be at a slightly higher level of fun than where she’s at. This kind of mirroring gives the girl a glimpse of your ability to connect with her, and if you can demonstrate this right off the bat, you’re that much further ahead of the game for when you guys start hooking up.

3. Concentration: Never lose focus of what you’re trying to do. Right now you’re trying to un-do a habit that has grown, evolved, and strengthened itself over the course of many years (or even decades). You cannot afford to lose sight of what you’re trying to do, which is to consciously re-wire your brain to convey emotions through a face that isn’t used to doing that. So while you’re using half of your brain to enjoy talking to the beautiful girl in front of you, use the other half of your brain to concentrate on the task at hand.

4. Emotions: When you’re in the middle of the conversation with a girl, you need to demonstrate a full range of emotions in a way that reflects your conversation. Are you talking about the awesome time you just had this summer going scuba diving? Convey those emotions through your facial expressiveness. Are you talking about your biggest pet peeve? Re-adjust your facial expressions to match how that makes you feel.

These four steps are easy to remember: F.A.C.E. If you work on these things consistently every time you roll up to a girl, I can guarantee you will start seeing better results.

Not sure how to implement these four steps? No problem! We can help you master these steps and not only get rid of your Asian Poker Face, but also take your game to a whole new level. Check out an ABCs of Attraction bootcamp and we’ll kick your ass into dating shape.