Bimbo Banter

Say No to #PhelpsFace

  • Trends
  • August 9, 2016
  • by Sally Ann Rivera

Welcome to the Summer Olympics, or another two weeks of watching Michael Phelps dominate the news coverage. We’ve all seen his adorable infant son (who convinced him to break his rigid routines), got caught up in his physical therapy methods (cupping) and now the internet has a new meme: #PhelpsFace. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a steely stare from Phelps while rival South African swimmer Chad le Clos tried to distract him before the 200M Butterfly event Monday night. Some media even called the expression “snarling like a Rottweiler.”

#PhelpsFace is great when you’re an Olympian with more lifetime medals than most countries but doesn’t work quite as well when you’re giving a business presentation or on camera with a reporter. Those are situations when you need to work on what we call “listening face” and make sure it looks as far from #PhelpsFace as possible.

When reporters asked Phelps what he was thinking about while making the now famous expression, his response was “nothing.” If you make the same face, you’ll be lucky if your audience is so generous to think the same. More likely, they’ll be turned off by what you have to say.

The cure? Remembering “I like these people” and “I’m happy to be here.” Your perfect listening face is not really a smile, but a slightly upturned expression. It seems overly simple, but showing people that you like them makes them more likely to like you back.

Likeability is key, it’s one of the proven factors that helped Obama defeat Romney in 2012 and is probably one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest struggles this election cycle. It’s also probably why one thing she does have down pat is her listening face.

Think you can’t fake it? Your listening face, like all other presentation skills (yes, even humor!) is a coachable and learned skill. Once again, rehearsal is key.

You May Also Like


BIMBO Nominees for April 2015

  April brings us BIMBO comments from a spokesperson for Afghan president Ghani, General Electric’s CFO, and several elected officials on both sides of the aisle. We have examples of the really Wrong Thing to Say from the… more 

Bimbo blog image c

BIMBO Nominees for September 2023

What a great month of examples with lessons to learn! BIMBO comments from a Malaysian biologist about a bear and a very intellectual defense from writer Sohrab Ahmari. Wrong (really, wrong) new football slogan from the University of… more 

Bimbo blog image c

BIMBO Nominees for August 2022

One of our most informative and funny memos. This month we have BIMBO comments from a White House economic advisor, a senior legal and policy advisor at Ipas (a global organization) and three international BIMBO comments! One of… more 

Back to Top