Yes, it’s true. We, volunteer managers cannot maintain a neutral expression when we hear a staff member tell a volunteer, “thanks for offering to help sweetie, but this is complicated.”
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’d catch someone watching my face during a meeting when a manager would be speaking and I’d be thinking, “yeah, our volunteer Andre told me you call volunteers ‘window dressing’.”
People would say to me, “ha, you have no poker face,” to which I’d scrunch up my nose and very cleverly respond, “oh yeah?” But they were right. I mean, how can we, volunteer managers actually keep a poker face when all those thoughts are rattling around inside our heads like “WHAT THE HECK IS A PARADIGM SHIFT ANYWAY?”
So, before you can’t stop yourself from busting out laughing when your supervisor says, “I think the volunteers will love our luncheon theme this year: Volunteers are the sprinkles atop our cupcake of caring,” here are my top volunteer manager poker face ideas:
Botox: Personally, I can’t afford Botox so I just slather my face with egg whites (please note-some skin cannot tolerate egg whites, so be careful and I always use organic eggs because I figure my face is organic). You are supposed to wash the egg whites off, but heck, I just leave them on because my face is then frozen into this super shiny mask which is great because it also scares people away and then, well, problem solved.
Argue that it’s opposite day: This one is sooooo easy it’s almost criminal. Anytime you feel yourself giving the “stink eye” to the person who just suggested that “we can enlist volunteers to do the cleanup,” just break into a smile and claim, “it’s opposite day, right? Didn’t you get that memo?”
Look around at the confused faces and say, “so you really meant that staff should do the cleanup, am I right?” (the only problem here is, every time you laugh at something that day, you’ll have to start crying. You’ll probably be forced to see one of the counselors, but that’s when you throw the receptionist under the bus and say that she was the one who told you it was opposite day or maybe she said optimist, who knows).
Enroll in a drama class or at least pretend to: Walk around spouting monologues with exaggerated expressions and claim you are practicing for an upcoming audition at your local community theater’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Bonus points if you proclaim, “I’m not just interested in performing, I want to recruit volunteers while I’m there, because well, method actors make great volunteers, don’t you agree?”) When you are caught rolling your eyes in the next meeting, say, “wow that made me think of Blanche Dubois when Stanley yells S-t-e-l-l-a!”
Create a mantra in your head: If you can silently repeat a mantra over and over, it settles the muscles in your face. You look glassy-eyed and creepy (especially if you have egg whites on your face), but hey, at least you’re not scowling. My mantra was always, “don’t take yourself too seriously, cause they don’t, don’t take yourself too seriously, cause they don’t.” Point to your third eye and announce, “I may look like I don’t see you, but I do.”
Fake choking: When you feel your eyebrows rising, start to cough and then fake like you just swallowed your own spit. Bend over and get your face out of view. Someone may try the Heimlich maneuver on you, but a few bruised ribs are a small price to pay (I used to just tape my ribs up and the bonus here was I didn’t have to wear my Spanx shapers those days). Yell, “ow, ow, you’re hurting me,” so that your expression looks like you are in pain and then demand some personal leave time to recover.
Breathe in and pretend there’s a putrid smell: When you notice that tick in your eyelid pulsating, wrinkle up your nose and whip your head back and forth, saying, “do you smell that? Ewwwwww.” (Bonus here is if the person who just said to you, “hey your volunteer was late today,” thinks they are the one who smells, so look directly at them and hold your nose).
Wear headphones: Yes, I know that you are not supposed to wear headphones all the time, but I’d wear one ear bud and let the other dangle down. I’d put little penguin charms on the dangling earbud so it looked like a necklace. Then, when you make that tsk tsk face, burst into laughter and claim you were just listening to a motivational speech (Bonus here is when you then add, “I laughed at the absurdity of the speech, because I realized, working here needs no motivation!” Then rip the remaining ear bud from your ear and don’t forget to pick up all the penguin charms that probably flew off the other earbud and hit a few people).
Do face yoga or face exercises while in meetings: Tell everyone that you are doing facial exercises to improve the muscle tone in your face. It doesn’t hurt if you add that it’s a proven method to lose weight or you can just say that you are entering the Non-Profit Facial Olympics in 2020 and your event is holding a laser pointer between your upper lip and nose while explaining a PowerPoint graph. Be sure to add some grunts or whooshes with your exercises to give it plausibility, sort of like Maria Sharapova when she hits a forehand.
Well, there you have it. Worry no more about your lack of poker face, because any one of these methods should keep you out of trouble. You might get labeled as off your rocker, but hey, at least you’re not negative which we all know is the worst label ever you can have in a non-profit.
So, my friends, don’t get caught being negative. Just be quirky.
You are so welcome.