Are you aware of the power of your smile? Do you use it to its greatest effect? If not, why not? What will it take to use it in your favour? Often?
What is your natural demeanour? Are you better known for a smile or a frown? Or perhaps that you are “just neutrally present”? How animated are you? Are you aware of the power of your smile? Do you use it to its greatest effect?
Recently I was on a ride in the hills on my mountain bike when I noticed a chap walking towards me with biggest smile on his face. Now I’m a coach, which makes me curious, right? So I stopped turned around and asked him why the big smile? He just laughed and said that this was just how he was, and when I checked, he said “yes, most of the time, if not all of the time”. Wow, I thought to myself – that’s a great way to be. He certainly caught my attention with it.
And so I spent some time thinking about whether we can be “wired” that way or whether it is a signpost of how we are feeling at that time or whether it was indeed something we can “switch on or off at will”? What do you reckon?
In my years engaged in multilevel marketing I was taught not to ask how someone is but rather to tell them. I learned to observe, notice and find something positive or that I liked about them and to tell them that instead. Only much later did I realize that this made me really focus my attention on them with curiosity and really listen to them to try to find out their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).
In many cases I noticed that they had “smiling eyes” and so I’d ask them if they knew that and how much of an asset that was for them. Have you ever noticed that in some people? That they actually have eyes that are perpetually smiling, whether their face is smiling or not? Even if they are frowning or annoyed, their eyes still seem to be smiling? Great attribute to have. Whether they are born with that or developed that remains a mystery to me.
I don’t think I was blessed with smiling eyes, but I was blessed to be born with what others called a “sunny demeanour”, and so I believed that, and I have found that it has made it easier for me to be smiling more of the time, but also to come across as positive and friendly even when I may not be “on top”.
So is it an attitude?
My late mum used to teach us in German: “wie du kommst gegangen, so wirst du auch empfangen” which loosely translated means the way that you present yourself is the way you are received. I learned that this not only related to the way we were dressed (which is certainly a factor in that it says something about how much you care – about yourself) but rather more how we presented ourselves – that we had a confident yet friendly Presence and also what our demeanour was.
(Wow! Would you allow me to quickly share a thought that this just generated? On a much broader front couldn’t we say: “the way that you perceive is the way that you receive”? This aligns quite well with my message in my blog The blue Honda.)
But let’s get back to attitude. How we present ourselves can be a matter of choice, can’t it? We can choose to not worry about appearance at all, or we can be obsessed about it. Two extremes, neither of which is probable, right? But would you agree with me that we can choose to think, speak and present ourselves positively, if we choose to? And that this happens so much better with a smile?
I remember one of my daughters having stages of “grumpy moods” which made life quite hard for those around her sometimes. My technique was to try to get her to smile (laugh, actually) because we learned that you can’t have a grumpy demeanour and a smile at the same time – it just doesn’t work, does it?
So why is it important to be seen with a smile on your face?
Again using a multilevel marketing example, where ordinary people like you and me are taught (or given the opportunity to learn) that we are “always marketing or promoting” whether ourselves or products or services or ideas etc., I remember someone asking me when I was very intense whether I was feeling happy. I had a quick think and found that I was, so I said “yes, I am, why?” They responded: “well then why don’t you inform your face”? Ouch. It was incidents like this that taught me that my demeanour (and my attitude) was indeed a choice, and that it was up to me to keep it switched on.
And so I have also learned that a smile can be and often is contagious. Smiling draws people to you rather than pushing them away from you. Think about it, wouldn’t you rather be talking to someone with a smile on their face than a sourpuss? And think about when you experience service in a restaurant. Doesn’t a happy smile help us to overcome errors or omissions made by service staff? Nobody wants to be served by a long face, do they?
Business influencing with a smile
In the game of business we are always trying in some way or another to exert our influence, be it over bosses, subordinates, peers, vendors, partners, and clients etc., right? Would you agree with me that doing so with a smile can make all the difference? I have learned that “the tone makes the music”, which suggests that a friendly, engaging and supportive tone will assist your agenda much more that a condescending or too intensely serious one. How much more true is that if it is combined with a smile?
So in our day to day activities in our work, don’t you think we will have a better day if there are more smiles about – starting with our own? Think of your boss. When he or she walks into the room and they have a frown, what do you think the tone of the meeting might have? And when they enter with a smile – is it different?
We can also relay difficult or critical messages in a much more conducive manner if we do so with a smile. Why, because it somehow tones down the intensity, would you agree?
My experience has also been that people want to follow people that are “going somewhere”; people with a vision; people with a purpose; people that give the confident impression that they are going to win. I’m sure you’ve been enthused or inspired by people like that, right? Aren’t they even that much more attractive or convincing when they have a smiling demeanour about them? Doesn’t that often also say something about their “people skills”?
I also teach my clients in negotiation skills how they can use a smile to great effect. Like I wrote in Using Silence, we can actually use a smile as a tactic, if we apply it in the right manner and at the right time. Sometimes a difficult situation or an impasse in the negotiation can be overcome simply by remaining silent with a smile on our face, right?
Also, when on the phone, you can actually “hear” if someone is smiling, can’t you? (I were taught to be standing up when on important phone calls, because like people “hearing” that you are smiling, you come across much more authoritatively).
Like I wrote in Recognition and the place for Criticism and Praise, sincerity is critical. People will see through contrived praise and will lap it up if they feel that it is sincere. The same applies to a fake smile. And if you don’t feel that way (yet), my experience has been that if you keep practicing your smile, after a while it will feel more natural to you and eventually you won’t notice it any more. However, others will notice it and often associate that with thinking that you are more positive overall.
We’ve been talking about observing all these attributes or insights or observations in others. Why not take stock about where you sit on this spectrum? Does your face more often than not depict on the outside how you are feeling on the inside?
If what we’ve been talking about today strikes a chord with you, why not “have a go” this coming week and pro-actively “look at” how your demeanour presents itself most of the time. If you are not happy with that current “autopilot”, why not create an awareness for yourself (perhaps even asking someone that you trust to give you some feedback after a while) in which you consciously choose more often to practice your smile and see the effect it has on others (and on you) and see what a difference it makes? What if it could?