The Power of a Smile

It’s a simple experiment, but the theory is expressed in books like How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie), Happy for No Reason (Marci Shimoff) and likely hundreds of others. A smile is a universal method of communication that crosses all geographical borders, all cultures, all age groups. A baby smiles and makes an 80 year old stranger smile in response. You receive a genuine smile from a stranger in the mall, it can feel like your heart grew a little. It’s been proven time and time again – smiles are contagious.

A smile tells a more complete story about a person than anything else that one could wear. The person on the bus that appears to have slept in their clothes but wears a warm, genuine smile is much more attractive than the lady walking down the street dressed up to the nines but wearing a condescending scowl.

So what can I do in a day to spread some sunshine around? How easy is it to literally turn a frown upside down? It is a fascinating experiment and I would encourage you to do it. Not only is it somewhat of a challenge, but it also makes you feel pretty great when you have made someone else’s day a little brighter.

I was checking out in a supermarket the other day when I noticed that the clerk seemed to be very defeated, uninterested and disengaged. Rather than be annoyed at the lack of customer service I was receiving, it made me think about why that clerk was feeling that way. Was he having a particularly bad day? Did some customer before me pass off a bad attitude (those are just as contagious)? And then… what could I do to change it?

It turns out to be relatively simple and the actions aren’t new by any means. A warm smile, a casual question about the day (has it been busy?), a subtle mention that you notice that they are having a bad day (have you had some rude customers today, you seem a little down), a compliment and a thank you. That’s it. Simple.

Be a nice person. Care. Be interested. Be sympathetic. Be polite.

Sounds ridiculously trivial, doesn’t it? Turns out it isn’t. I managed to make that defeated, uninterested and disengaged clerk smile, relax and find renewed energy to get through whatever was bogging his mind. The impact? The next customer received a smile, was more likely to be satisfied with their level of service, walked out feeling better and maybe even smiled at a complete stranger.

Can you imagine being the one that started that smile epidemic? Try it the next time you find yourself in front of an individual that could use a little cheering up… then stand back and watch the difference you just made on the world.

Feel free to share your results…