When was the last time that you smiled at someone – a friend at the gym, a colleague at work or even a complete stranger in the supermarket? When was the last time you smiled to your colleagues or even to your manager? And knowing that, how often do you smile in a day? As kids we tend to smile more. Studies show that children smile around 400 times a day. This number is more than impressive compared to the (sad) 20 smiles grown-ups give to the world per day.
As we grow up we begin to smile less and less. Our day to day lives become busier, more rushed, stressed, worried, harsh, or all of these. Our minds are preoccupied with various issues that await our attention. In the spare minutes when we try to kick back and relax, we are so mesmerized by our technological soulmate – the smartphone – that we rarely even make the effort to engage in face-to-face (human) interactions. In the age of technological and digital advancements we are prone to connect with others online rather than offline. We often use emoji (:D ;) :P :/ :@) and abbreviations (wft, lol, lmao, omg) to communicate our emotions and feelings. But being realistic about it, when was the last time you really “laughed out loud”?
Smiling is a basic human expression that lets us share our emotions with others. It has the power to improve our health, make us more spiritual, reduce stress, boost mood, gain trust, improve creativity and make us more attractive to others. So, if the inherent benefits to smiling are so many, I cannot help but wonder… why don’t we smile more?
For starters, a common misconception among adults is that smiling makes them seem weaker. Moreover, smiling in business situations is often considered as inappropriate behavior and keeping a serious face expression helps to be perceived as a more reliable professional. When I was a banker, this was especially the case. Being formal and considered strong was valued more than engaging with the client and showing yourself. Also in any leadership school, there is no formal curriculum to smile and have fun? Is that because it is so logical, or because smiling is not yet seen as an official tool in management literature and leadership practices?
Contrary to this conservative logic, recent research shows that there are beneficial effects of smiling to one’s career and well-being. Actually, people mix up being serious and being professional. Usually, the real leaders in any business appear very relaxed and make a connection with their surrounding by being informal. Think of the smile of many great leaders, in power or leading revolutions.
They can relax, because they are on the top of their game and know it is important to be in a state of flow. The state of flow can come best in a situation in which the body is focused and relaxed.
People who smile more tend to be more likable and attractive, seem more confident and competent. For instance, in sales or negotiations, smiling helps to build a more personal and trustful environment that predisposes to better possibilities for collaboration and cooperation. Indeed, this seems to be a good enough reason to smile to people that we’d like to do business with.
On another note, smiling has the secret superpower to rewire our brains. The brain has a natural tendency to think negatively. Fortunately, we can break the pattern of negative thinking by smiling more. As we smile more, we teach our brains to look for and focus more on the positive rather than the negative things in life. This helps us feel more energetic, be open to opportunities and embrace the new and the different. Thus, we end up being more productive, creative and innovative, boosting our performance in work and life.
Breaking the habit. Bring back the smile. The #StartSmiling movement
To benefit from the power of smiling we need to break the habit of not smiling often enough and #StartSmiling more. How? By faking it. It sounds a bit weird but actually the brain cannot distinguish between a fake and a genuine smile. This makes a fake smile as effective as a real one, having the same positive influence on our well-being as real ones do.
Similarly to yawning, smiling is also contagious as people tend to automatically mirror facial expressions of others. By starting to smile more we also help others smile more, thus, we influence both ours and other people’s happiness. So this not only involves employees or leaders, but all of us.
So let’s make a difference by joining the movement of #StartSmiling and smile more! You can find us on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter by using the #StartSmiling hashtag. I look forward seeing you smiling in an image or an video to show each other the smile is here to stay!