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How to Tap the Power of Your Smile

Use your smile to change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.

          — Anonymous


Working with a CEO on her conference speech recently, I urged her to smile more during her opening, despite her nervousness. She protested that her smile would look “phony” to her audience because she felt some anxiety.

But after some deep breathing and a couple of run-throughs, she was comfortable and radiated a warm, confident smile. It made a huge difference in connecting with her audience.

Smiles are that important. Substantial research shows that simply initiating a smile in a meeting, presentation, chance encounter, or other social interaction can have a dramatic impact on the outcome for us and others.

Research also 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 percent 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 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.

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
Just as our body language increases our confidence, our smiles improve how we feel. Research has shown that simply holding a smile, real or manufactured, reduces stress and produces positive emotions in our brains. Of course, a smile will also make others perceive you as being more confident.

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:

  • How often do you smile every day?

  • Are you among the top 30 percent who smile 20 times a day? 

  • This week, notice people who have great smiles and how they affect you and others.

  • Add an intentional smile to a critical situation and see what happens.

That’s how you tap into the power of your smile.
 
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