Humans act in strange ways. It doesn't seem like the smart thing to do when we reveal our feelings during weakness.

We can tell when someone is in pain by observing their behavior. Is the best strategy to hide weakness? Why take the risk of being taken advantage of?

Animals that are struggling rarely show visible behavior changes. Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, or hormone levels can be used to find out if an animal is in pain.

Is there an advantage to broadcasting your vulnerability?

The reasons we communicate using our bodies, faces, and hands are investigated in our research.

These signals are important in how we build and maintain social networks. The more stressed you seem, the more people like you.

Evolution and stress

Stress and behavior are linked. When someone is stressed, they are more likely to act out. We play with our hair, we bite our nails, and we touch our faces.

The evidence for stress behavior in monkeys and apes is similar to the evidence for stress behavior in humans.

Researchers don't know how others see stress-related behaviors. Is it possible that people notice these behaviors in others? Is it possible to detect when others are stressed? How does that change our opinion of them?

We needed to induce mild stress in volunteers to study their behavior. They had three minutes to prepare for a presentation and a mock job interview.

Most of the participants got stressed.

When we showed the footage of the volunteers to a new group of people, they rated their behavior on a sliding scale, and what they thought of them.

Humans are good at recognizing when someone is stressed. The more stressed an individual is, the more stressed others are.

Self-directed behaviors seem to play a key role. The more stressed an individual is, the more they are judged as being.

We asked complete strangers to make the judgments about our participants, and these were not subtle signals that could only be seen by close friends.

The fact that other people can clearly detect when we are stressed is proof that these behaviors function like other types of non-verbal communication.

This is the first study to show a correlation between stress behavior and perception.

The fact that those judged as more stressed were also the most likable people could explain why we produce these signals of weakness in the first place.

People's first impressions of stress signallers are very positive.

Showing your vulnerable side encourages support and social bonding.

We are attracted to people who are honest about their intentions and state of mind because we are a highly cooperative species. Communication when you are weak is more honest than anything else.

Stress may be a good thing according to other research. Our brains evolved to tackle challenges in the environment, and mild stress gives a healthy challenge to keep your mind stimulated.

Stress communication is telling the same story. Show your feelings. Don't try to hide your stress levels during a big presentation or interview. It is possible to leave a positive impression on others by communicating honestly and naturally.

Jamie Whitehouse is a research fellow in the department of psychology.

This article is free to use under a Creative Commons license. The original article is worth a read.