A while ago, I read an article in which the author claimed that one of the most potent things we can do is to simply smile at people. He referred to research which has shown that a smile has all kinds of positive effects, including effects on the mood of the one who is doing the smiling and effects on those who are receiving a smile.
I had read similar information before so I felt like I was not encountering anything new. It seems somewhat obvious to me that the typical person would respond in a more positive way to someone who is smiling. After all, a smile is nice. We all know that. But the author of the article suggested a first-hand test. His challenge: For one day, make it a point to smile more often. Try to make it a genuine smile, not a forced one. (Apparently, we look strange if we have a forced smile and it can scare people. This is likely to create a negative reaction.) Smile at people all day and see if the positive responses you receive are a little beyond the usual.
So, that’s what I did today. I made an effort to intentionally smile at everyone. (The good news is that no one tried to punch me, so apparently my smile did not look forced like, for instance, the one in the picture accompanying this article.)
It’s hard to know, for sure, if I experienced any type of real difference in the response of others. It’s easy to imagine that I received more positive responses simply from the fact that I was paying more attention. By the way, I realize this is not, in any way, a scientifically valid study, but I think I really did receive more positive responses than would be typical. (You should know, however, that I’m planning on submitting this post to several academic journals for publication.)
Early this morning at my cardiac rehab session I intentionally smiled at a woman who is new to the group and said, “Good morning.”
She was not smiling when I greeted her. But a big smile immediately appeared on her face and she said, “My, you’re in a very nice mood today.”
I said, “Thank you.”
And I thought, “Hmm, all I said was ‘good morning’ that’s not a particularly effervescent type of greeting.” It’s interesting that she mentioned my nice mood. Again, my only two words were “good morning.”
Throughout the day, several strangers—at whom I smiled—nodded and said “hello” as they smiled back at me. I don’t normally get verbal greetings from strangers that I pass.
I realize this is all simplistic and very subjective but I think I detected a difference in people based on my smiling. (Again, it’s helpful to bear in mind that all kinds of scientific journals are just dying to publish these kinds of helpful articles from intellectually rigorous guys like me.)
One interesting episode happened at lunch. A man at a table next to ours got up to get a refill on his coffee. I smiled at him. Looking down he noticed Rachel’s cup on our table and said to me, “Can I get her a refill?”
This was a total stranger, in a restaurant, offering to get her a refill. I don’t know if an intentional smile played a role in this, but I have eaten at this restaurant, literally, scores and scores of times and that has not happened to me any other time.
Coincidence? I don’t know. Maybe. But maybe not.
I chuckled and said, “Thank you very much but that won’t be necessary, she probably won’t finish the drink she has. But I appreciate it.”
There’s an old concept I’ve encountered—you’ve probably encountered it, too—which suggests that, for the most part, “you get back what you send out.” In other words, if you send out happy, nice, pleasant, kind, helpful, optimistic types of messages through what you do and say and how you look then, in general, you will tend to get back happy, nice, pleasant, kind, helpful, optimistic types of messages. Obviously, we all know there will be exceptions to this rule of thumb but, again, the idea is that we will typically get back what we send out.
I think this is usually true.
I’m going to try to make an effort to smile a little bit more.