Smiling is the Secret Weapon.

I have pretty much a stone face when I don’t smile.  I look like I am pissed off.  I remember when I was a restaurant owner of a Sizzler many years ago that the customer’s thought I was angry all the time.  I would walk through the restaurant looking for empty plates to bus and half filled water glasses and the whole time, I looked like an army officer reviewing the troops.  

 A turning point for me was a course I took on presenting skills from Dale Carnegie taught by master facilitator, Jackie Kellso.  We had to present about 7 times over the course of two days in front of a group of strangers (classmates).  They video taped each time you presented.  You can imagine how terrified I was when they said we would be videotaped.  After you presented in front of the class, you would take turns reviewing the video tape privately with a coach in another room.  Ugh.  The first pass?  I never cracked a smile.  It’s difficult to listen to someone who never smiles.  It’s off putting;  puts the audience on edge.

Which picture is the genuine smile?
Which picture is the genuine smile?

The good news is that by the last videotaped presentation, I was learning to smile.  The amazing thing was the feedback from my classmates.  They all said that my face lit up.  I know we’ve all heard that before and it sounds cliché, but when I saw the video tape, they were right.  I wanted to listen to that woman.  The one in the last video tape. 

Here are some ways to find your smile:

1. Paint it On.  Put on a forced smile. There is interesting science even about a “forced” smile.  In 1988, German scientists did experiments on subjects when they were  forced to smile or frown.  Psychology Today writer Karen Kleiman wrote that when subjects were forced to smile by holding a pencil between their teeth and then read cartoons, they saw the cartoons as funnier than those who were forced to frown.  So paint one on.

2. Lifetime.  You’ll need to try  and smile consistently over a lifetime. According to a blog post by Leo Widrich, “In the famous yearbook study, they tracked the lives of women who had the best smiles in yearbook photos compared to the rest. Women who smiled the most lived happier lives, happier marriages and had fewer setbacks.”  Sounds like something we all need to sign up for. This is not a one time shot.

3. Genuine is better. The thing to remember is that a genuine smile is more effective than a fake smile; even though smiling, period is better than a stone face.  So how to you make a genuine smile?  It involves your orbicularis oculi.  Say what?  These are the muscles around your eyes.  Fake smiles involve just your mouth where as a genuine smile involves your mouth and the area around your eye sockets.  If you have crow’s feet; you’ve been smiling a lot; genuinely smiling a lot.  So the secret hand shake is smiling genuinely and often.

4.  Be happy. Another trick I use is to think about something happy:  Like my dog wagging her tail, my son imitating a Scottish accent, my daughter’s silly sounds that she makes.  Keeping the happy moment inventory in my brain helps me bring it out when I need it.  It helps me naturally smile.

5. Mirror, Mirror. Stand in front of the mirror and practice.  I remember doing this in junior high before yearbook pictures were to be taken.  I had evidence that I was a poor “smiler” for school pictures so I worked on smiling so I could remember how my face felt.  You don’t have a mirror when they take the photo although now we all have the capabilities of doing “selfies” with our phones but back then…no such luck.  Practice making the sincere smile, and etch into your memory.  You’ll be able to pull it out on command.  “Say Cheese”.

These are just a few ideas from a Recovering Stone Face.  What techniques do you use to keep those pearly whites showing?  Leave a comment. (The answer is B)

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