The most overlooked and undervalued human asset is the smile. Oh, sure, movie stars spends thousands of dollars on their smiles because they know a great set of pearly whites will pay off in the long run, but how often do those movie starts get to show off their investment? More importantly, do any of us realize the true, raw power a smile gives you, whether your teeth are pearly white or not? I doubt many people do and even I, the wife of a dentist, didn’t realize how powerful a smile is until two years ago.
I am currently in orthodontic treatment; I wear lingual braces. In April of 2004, I got my braces off for about a year. My ortho appointment was scheduled for a morning hour, and my plans for the rest of the day were to run errands and catch up on some shopping. I had no idea going in that day that I would be getting my braces off, so it came as a total surprise and made me so happy. The only bad thing about linguals is that when you get them off, no one notices because they didn’t know you were in treatment to begin with. But I knew – and oh, what a feeling!
As I was going on about my business the rest of that day, I had some amazing experiences. While grocery shopping for example, I had 5 different people helping me collect my groceries. I didn’t ask for their help, they asked what I was looking for, found it and put it in my cart for me. That had never happened to me before. As I was pushing my cart out of that Meijer store, a young gentleman turned to watch me as I passed by him and said, “Whoa.” The female who was with him punched him with her elbow in a way that let him know he was in trouble if he didn’t get his attention back to her.
I had several experiences like that all day long! Everywhere I went people were eager to help me or just especially nice to me. I didn’t know what was going on. Was this national customer service day? Was the day marked as “Be nice to redheads?” Then I thought maybe I was just extra attractive that day. We all have good days, right?
As I was getting into my car on one stop, I decided to pull my visor down and straighten my hair a little – it was a little windy that day. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I noticed that I had this HUGE smile on my face. I was so happy to have my braces off – my tongue was happy, my teeth were happy; I was so thrilled that I had this permanent smile on my face! While I was dressed attractively that day, it was much more than that. I was exuding or radiating, if you will, a feeling that everyone wanted. Without even knowing it themselves, people (of both sexes) were drawn to me because they wanted to be a part of my world. That world where one is completely happy and not afraid to show it.
Now, I’ve heard all the same clichés that you have like, “Smile and the world smiles with you,” and there are several others. I’ve heard my mother say, “She’d be such a pretty girl, if only she’d smile.” But nothing had ever conveyed to me that a smile is actually powerful – it can accomplish things for you. It moves people to your way of thinking, it draws people to you. But this was just one day. Could this phenomenon be sustainable? Even better, could it be used as a positive method of getting what you want out of life? I believed it could, but I wanted proof.
I decided to test my theory.
At first I thought about testing the reactions I would get if I frowned all the time – you know – testing the opposite hypothesis against the experimental one to make sure the results are not the same. But after thinking about it, I decided the results were just too predictable. So I focused on just the smile, then the feeling behind the smile. What if your smile is fake? Will you still get the same results? Will people know you’re putting on an act? Are there levels involved? Do teeth have to show?
On a separate day, I went into my hometown grocery store with a big, huge, smile on my face. I know every worker in that store and most of the other shoppers. They looked at me, smiled back, and went on about their business. Were they helpful? Yes, but no more than usual. I did, however, get one extra compliment at the checkout – the checker complimented my hair. I’m usually task oriented when paying for my groceries, but that day I decided to just smile as big as I could at the lady and it seemed to work. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more tests. So on to the post office where I stood in line for a few minutes, with a huge grin. When I made it up to the window, the clerk handled my requests with his usually friendliness, but then said, “You are always smiling. I like that.” Aha! A direct hit. Now, if I could just get one more I’d be set for the day. But my errands were over and I had to get back home to pack for a trip to Los Angeles the next day. I decided to extend the experiment to LA because, let’s face it, if it works in LA, it will work anywhere.
My trip the next day was harried and I have to admit that I forgot about the experiment. However, once my assignment was over and I relaxed, I remembered it and picked it back up – in the Santa Monica airport. What a test! My flight was delayed, then cancelled, so I was re-routed to LAX. I had to get my checked bags, hail a cab, which cost $105, re-check my bags, walk to the terminal only to find out my departure had been switched to a different terminal – all while smiling as big as could be. Did it help? I was a little uncertain, until I got to Chicago’s airport. I arrived just as my connecting flight was supposed to board. No problem, except the terminal was exactly opposite where I came in. I ran. I ran with a big smile on my face. It was 9:30 PM, I had had nothing to eat all day and was starving, but I figured frowning wouldn’t help so I just kept smiling. When I arrived at the gate, the plane had not left. I asked the gate attendant if I had time to get a bite to eat, she at first said No, then looked up at me – smiling me. She said, “Okay, but we’re getting ready to board, so go to the first place you see.” I thanked her and started running to a Mexican, fast service type restaurant. My rolling carry-on was clanking against the tile floor as I got in the back of the line – still smiling. The people in front of me turned to look, the man who was next in line asked, “Rough day, or do you always look this happy?” I responded, “No, it’s just that my flight is getting ready to leave – but I made it – I’m going to make it home today after all.” He offered to let me in front of him and the people behind him agreed. I had not had time to look at the menu and it was foreign to me. I apologized to the order taker – with a smile on my face. She said, “No problem. Just tell me what you like and I’ll have them make it for you.” I said, “I need something fast with some meat in it.”
“One taco salad coming up.”
“Perfect!” I paid the lady and the salad was in my hands faster than I was ready for it. A lady behind me got a bag and put napkins and eating utensils in it and held it open for me while I placed the salad in it. Another gentleman started to hand me a bag, then noticed the lady and said, “She just has all kinds of help. What is this, Christmas?”
I thought, “No, it’s the power of a smile.” I thanked everyone for helping me and wished them all a great flight.
I scarfed down my taco salad as quickly as I could only to find out my flight had been delayed another hour. But I kept smiling! As a result, I met some wonderful people from Lexington, Kentucky, two of whom were also consultants. We had a great time waiting for that plane. I wonder if that trip would have gone as well if I hadn’t been smiling all the time? Actually, I don’t think I really want to know. It doesn’t matter. Smiling made me feel better about things all day long.
It is difficult to mimic true, innate, spontaneous happiness. What I mean by that is that you can be a very happy, content person, but still not exude what I was on that day when my mouth was completely unencumbered by dental wires. I was a happy and fairly contented person when I went in to that appointment, but the surprise of getting my braces off sent me “over the top,” for lack of a better term. So the question is, how does a person get that feeling on command, and then display it to others so that we can have that kind of experience whenever we want? In other words, how do we repeat it? How did I manage to keep a smile on my face throughout all of those problems at the airports?
Please understand that I am not a manipulative person in the negative sense of the word. I don’t believe in tricking people into doing things they don’t want to do or into doing things that are against their own best interests just to serve my purposes. Doing so is wrong, period. However, as most of you know if you’ve been reading my posts or have read many of my articles on Zero Accounts Receivable, I do believe that we sometimes have to “manipulate” people into doing what is best for them. We have to get people to want what they need.
Being a life-long student of the human mind and how it works, I am always fascinated when I discover something for myself that I’ve read in text. In her book, You’ve Only Got Three Seconds, Camille Lavington’s premise is that within the first three seconds of seeing you, people size you up and make determinations about you based on how you look. If you want to have control over what others think of you when they look at you, get that book. One thing, however, that Camille leaves out is the importance of having a smile on your face when you first see, meet, or greet someone. This is where my own research came into play.
My smile was part of my outfit that long day traveling. It didn’t just impress those around me, it made an impact on me as well. My determination to smile and keep the experiment going made that day enjoyable instead of a disaster. How? Somehow, the physical act of smiling helped me to keep my thoughts positive. With positive thoughts, it became easier to smile. Smile and the world smiles with you – yes – but it is so much more than that!
A smile can change your mood instantly. If you want to be happy really, really fast –start smiling. Try it, right now. Doesn’t that feel great! Anytime you find yourself a little depressed, smile as big and wide as you can. Okay you might want to do it somewhere private – or maybe not – it’s a great conversation starter. The important thing is - it works
Now, here’s a sad irony – Dentists, the people with the power to make people their happiest, have the highest suicide rate of all professionals! Dentists and their teams should be smiling all of the time. First, you need to show off your own work. Second, you need to show what a smile can do for one’s appearance. Third, you can prove that a smile can help personality problems. Fourth, smiling keeps you happy and when you’re happy, it’s easier to smile.
A smile can change the mood of others. When someone sees you smile, it makes him or her realize that happiness is achievable, that not everyone in the world is miserable. It gives them hope, if that’s what they’re looking for.
A smile will significantly increase your self-esteem. Smiling sends a subtle message to your subconscious that you like yourself and that you’re contented. You really are as happy as you decide to be and smiling sends the message, “Mission accomplished.”
A smile will instantly increase your sex appeal. I don’t care how many times you’ve been told that the opposite sex likes dark and mysterious. These days, men and women alike don’t have time for dark and mysterious. Give us someone who’s already happy – that’s what we’d like to latch on to.
Use it while on the phone. You’ll be amazed at how people will be able to tell you’re smiling! Just as important, smiling improves your mood – that’s what comes across over the phone or even while composing e-mail!
A smile can literally change someone’s life. I found the following poem at http://www.storybin.com/positive/positive107.shtml.
“The Power of a Smile
She smiled at the sorrowful stranger.
The smiling seemed to make him feel better.
He remembered past kindnesses of a friend
And wrote him a thank you letter.
The friend was so pleased with the thank you
That he left a large tip after lunch.
The waitress, surprised by the size of the tip,
Bet the whole thing on a hunch.
The next day she picked up her winnings,
And gave part to a man on the street.
The man on the street was grateful;
For two days he’d had nothing to eat.
After he finished his dinner,
He left for his small dingy room.
He didn’t know at that moment
That he might be facing his doom.
On the way he picked up a shivering puppy
And took him home to get warm.
The puppy was very grateful
To be in out of the storm.
That night the house caught on fire.
The puppy barked the alarm.
He barked till he woke the whole household
And saved everybody from harm.
One of the boys that he rescued
Grew up to be President.
All this because of a simple smile
That hadn’t cost a cent.”
Are you smiling yet?
Posted under Inspiration, Motivation