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Smile More for Success and Joy

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. 

          -- Thich Nhat Hanh, the late Buddhist Monk

During an all-day communications workshop with some 50 awesome sales leaders this week (shout out, Florida!), I urged them to smile more when they’re speaking.

One leader noted, rightly, that they need to be genuine smiles and I agreed, but I urged them to practice “genuine” smiles.

That might sound ironic, but it’s not nonsense. There is substantial research that simply initiating a smile in a social interaction, whether a meeting, presentation or chance encounter, can have a dramatic impact on the outcome for us and others.

In addition, research finds that smiling has positive effects on our brains, our lives, and our success.

Charles Darwin initiated our modern “science of smiling” in the 1800’s. He noticed that unlike learned cultural behavior like gestures or touch, smiling and its effects are universal.

Ron Gutman gave this interesting 2011 TED Talk on the benefits of smiling. He notes that smiling is also one of the most frequent forms of communication, particularly for children.

“More than 30% of us smile more than 20 times a day,” Gutman said. “In fact, those with the greatest superpowers are actually children, who smile as many as 400 times per day!”

As human beings, we are hardwired for smiling from the start. Babies begin smiling fully at five weeks old and babies born blind smile like sighted infants. It’s said that babies learn that crying gets the attention of adults but smiling keeps it.

This holds true throughout life. We’ve all felt the effect of someone speaking with a broad smile. Their face lights up, energy enters the room and we may feel our mood brighten.

There’s little downside to smiling, and a whole lot of upside, so let me give you four reasons to smile more often, especially when you’re involved in an important presentation or conversation.

Smiling makes you more likable. We naturally find people with sincere smiles to be more likable, which is critical to your success in business and life, as I wrote last week.

Smiling is positively contagious. Like a yawn, a smile can be contagious. When we see someone smile it lightens the mood and makes others more likely to smile. At the very least, research finds that a smile reduces the likelihood that someone will frown at you.

Smiling increases your confidence. In the same way, our own body language can increase our confidence, so can our smiles improve how you feel. Research has shown that simply holding a smile, real or manufactured, reduces stress and produces positive emotions in our brains.

Smiling can change the way you see the world. Some research suggests that your smile may actually change the way your brain interprets other people’s emotional responses to you. You’ll view other people’s expressions toward you more positively.

Take action: Do children really smile 400 times a day? How often do you smile every day? Are you among the top 30% who smile 20 times a day?

This week notice how often you smile each day and in what situations.

Add an intentional smile to a critical situation and notice the effects. 


Photo Credit: Nathan Anderson

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