I used to think that a smile was just a nice thing to have, a bonus to brighten someone else’s day.
I’ve since realised that a smile not only makes you appear more approachable, it communicates a multitude of messages to people seeing it!
Such as ‘today you’re safe’, ‘I appreciate you’, ‘I am listening’, ‘you have my attention’, ‘I’m in a good mood’ and so on.
A smile can have a significant impact across a range of interactions, whether it’s a first encounter, negotiation, or another delicate situation. Better still, a smile can trigger a positive physiological response in those around you as well as the person smiling!
After watching a TV series from 2009 called Lie to Me, starring Tim Roth who plays an eccentric, sometimes Predator-like, professional deception expert, I’ve managed to convince myself that binge-watching these episodes is necessary for my professional development! His character is based on the real-life psychologist Paul Ekman, who is famous for his study on emotions and facial expressions.
As a result, I better understand the serious nature of a smile, and I drive this point home when coaching my clients. What I’ve discovered in my 20+ years of coaching is that most people don’t smile enough, and worse yet, they think they’re smiling when they’re not. Every once in a while, I meet a person who is an excessive smiler. This can be a result of extreme nervousness (one time it was an overly high dosage of caffeine!). In the case of the serial smiler, I encourage them to relax their face more. With everyone else I encourage them to do the ‘I’ve got a secret’ smile. Lips together with the corners of the mouth turned up slightly and a soft wrinkling around the eyes. (Note: lips together looks friendly, not flirty.)
This cute koala recently made me giggle…
If you imagine something positive or funny, you’ll be able to do this easily.
Warning for people who have any of the following attributes!*
Glasses, particularly with dark frames*
No hair* (such as ‘The Rock’ actor Dwayne Johnson)
A smile is critical because any of the above can make you look overly serious!
My challenge to you is to practise your ‘secret smile’ walking down the hallway/street, making eye contact with people you encounter, and observe their reactions. You will be pleasantly surprised at the positive exchange a simple smile can trigger.