I was walking around in central London the other day, and I just happened to think of something funny and as I thought about it I absent-mindedly smiled to myself, and kept smiling for a while. Suddenly the world changed. People walking past started looking at me. The usual hard faces of the massive foot traffic began to break into smiles! Sure, there were only a few people smiling back at me, a tiny minority in fact, but considerably more than would smile at me if I’d have kept my face in neutral.
Smiling is one of the most recognisable things we can do with out faces, and a genuine smile is rarely misinterpreted. James Borg, in his book ‘Body Language’, says that a genuine smile involves the eyes changing in some way, even if it’s barely noticeable. People can detect the subtlest of facial clues, and they can usually tell a real smile from an insincere one.
When meeting people, if you smile at them you will notice a difference compared to if you don’t. Again, this isn’t always appropriate, but if you can smile and mean it, do so. It’s warm, it helps establish emotional connection, displays confidence, and makes people feel good.
As a final note, and something Borg mentions, is that congruence between smiling and what’s been said is critical. Some people know that smiling is nice, but seem to think that means they should smile regardless of the situation, or what they’re talking about. No one wants to be asked to take a pay cut by someone smiling at them.
Try smiling. It’s nice!