You know that person, the one with the epic scowl coming down the corridor of your office, the one where you think ‘Yikes!’ and get out of their way in case some kind of wrath is unloaded on your head; that person? I hope it’s not you, by the way. I do get it, some days are tough. But nothing is achieved with that scowl. Just fear and trepidation from your co-workers. Right?
Something so simple as a smile is, I think, one of the most powerful things in the world.
This is the point where you’re supposed to roll your eyes. Seriously, don’t underestimate this power. I’ll explain.
Why don’t you try smiling at the people you encounter during your day. This isn’t a crazy smile, no scary teeth, it’s just a friendly smile. A smile that doesn’t say anything at all, it’s just polite. I’ve tried this. I’ve proven to myself that it works. If you try it too, you’ll actually feel better within yourself, and perhaps brighten the day of someone else. So intangible, but it’s real. How do you feel when you go to your favourite cafe or restaurant and are greeted with a broad smile and a bright hello? You feel great. Admit it. Go on. So how about paying that forward? How do you feel when someone smiles at you? Again, you have to admit you feel great. Even when you’re all cranky pants and someone smiles at you, their annoying cheerfulness is infectious and even though you straightaway shoot daggers from your eyes at them for being so perky, deep down you know you love it. You do.
This is the point where I add a caveat, be careful where you use this power of course, I won’t blast a smile in an environment where I’ll attract people I don’t want to. Unfortunately you need to pick your targets. And don’t be concerned if there’s no smile back. It can be discouraging but it isn’t likely to have anything to do with you. There’s no point in living in someone else’s head so if they aren’t smilers or whatever, don’t let that put you off.
So, where on earth am I coming from here?
What kind of motivational feel-good nonsense is this? It’s not! Don’t think that! Keep reading! I warn you, I may annoy you with my firm stance on smiling and my seeming intolerance of bad moods.
I’ve been told certain things in the past that make it clear that my natural resting face is intimidating. A useful tool, I won’t lie, but not exactly socially beneficial when you are struggling to overcome a lack of self-confidence and feeling of intimidation of others. I’ve had to work harder than expected to relay the impression I want to give others; one of friendliness, openness and warmth. One of my tools was to smile. And my favourite place to use this tool and where I perfected it was in my workplace. If I’m on my way to get myself a tea, I’ll smile. When I’m at the printer, I’ll smile. When I’m walking the halls, I’ll smile. And guess what? I usually get a smile back. I’ve worn down reluctant smilers, bit by bit. We are all in this together, after all.
The beauty of a smile is two-fold.
Firstly, for those who prefer to be in their own bubble (often me) this just says I’m a good-natured person wishing you good day as I pass. There is no expectation of further contact, there’ll be no long-winded chats about personal lives that have you wishing you hadn’t turned up for work that day and I won’t be latching on to you like a leech to be my emotional support (hence the need to pick your targets). Any further building of a co-worker relationship is up to fate. If we are to remain on smiling terms only, that’s fine. Secondly and most importantly, it can brighten your day and theirs. Work can be hard. A smile of genuine warmth will help lighten the load of someone’s day and it’s not just because you’ve smiled at them, it’s because you’ve (hopefully) also tricked them into automatically smiling back. And guess what? Smiling makes you feel better. I don’t need any scientific studies to tell me this. Smile despite how you are feeling. You fake it. Because the more you fake something as powerful as a smile with the intention of good behind it, the more real it becomes and the more you’ll actually begin to feel better about stuff and help others feel better about stuff too.
Try it. Try it now. If you aren’t used to it, it’s going to feel unnatural. But you’ll get it.
The smile has been much maligned because it is attached to awful cliches and sickening catch-phrases. Gak! I think I’m going to barf! Somehow positivity bleeds into the realms of naive kookiness and that I am not talking about. You know what your life is about. You know the seriousness of your daily situations. You just choose to smile.
How are you?
I sometimes dislike asking how people are because I loathe the automatic negative responses I hear. ‘Not bad, for a Monday,’ is often the one. Then you get that response the next day, just replace the name of the day. It just disappoints me. If you are genuinely upset about something I’m all ears and want to help, but if you’re just in a natural blue mood for no reason then I sigh on the inside, wishing for your sake that you weren’t that way. I hope you understand that it’s coming from someone who has had to fight for good moods. From someone who’s faced a few battles and realised that staying on the positive side of the fence even in the smallest of things like smiling meant that my life just runs better. Like an engine running to perfection. I’ve learnt to not indulge in my foul moods because, quite frankly, they make me feel foul. Darn it, I like Mondays! And that’s only because I’m sick of hearing about how other people don’t like Mondays. I realised how blah those responses were and something within me shifted because I wanted to enjoy everyday. Is that so wrong? Not in a skipping down the halls in song and dance, sunshine and rainbows kind of way, that’s just silly. But to have my default setting be; smile.
Life is too serious
You have to realise that sometimes the seriousness of life is so, well, serious, and that something must be done to help you navigate it or you’ll flame out. Laughing is the next step from smiling but let’s start with the basics. This is also from the daughter of a mother who has survived a stroke and a father who has survived a heart attack. Sometimes life needs some relief.
It’s not a denial of the importance of a situation, it’s just a reflection of your chosen attitude towards it.
Despite how bad the storm is, there are still a few things in your life you can control and your attitude and perspective is at the top of that list. Why not try a new way? You might just feel a little better.
This is where I also say that the reason I dislike bad moods is because they are so debilitating. They are like sinking into quicksand, you become powerless and unable to function properly or make good decisions. Like choosing what to eat when you’re starving. You always choose the wrong thing and regret it for the rest of the day. Or writing an email when you’re mad and regretting the outcome of your harsh words.
Annoyed at my enthusiasm and advice yet? I admit I’m deliberately provoking you because I know how important this is. But I hope you just laugh at me instead.
Again, please, please, please don’t think that I’m some motivational speaker hippie-type because I am so not. I’m just a smile convert. I’ve performed social experiments and find that (Gasp!) I have ways to make people like me, work with me easier, and am able to have a good day even when I’m not. And I think those things are important. They are fundamental. Aren’t they? Who doesn’t want friends and have a good day? Those who revel in their moods and self-pity, this advice is not for them, even though they are the prime candidates for trying this.
I remember, not a few months ago, when my father was wheeled out of surgery after having a stent sent up a vein to his heart after sudden heart failure. He saw us in the family waiting room and whilst flat on his back and recovering from being pulled back from near-death, he waved a regal hand in the air to let us know he was good. It was regal. He had been making the nurses and docs laugh the whole time and after freaking out all morning about whether I still had a Dad, it was the best moment ever.
If he can do that, I can smile at my daily nonsense.
I have another challenge for you.
One that is totally weird and totally awkward. It’s not going to feel comfortable, it’s going to be embarrassing if anyone catches you doing it. When you look in the mirror, smile at yourself. Please! But not in a narcissistic kind of way, that’s just wrong. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Try it for a week or two and see what happens. You’ll start to feel good. Problems that seemed insurmountable you’ll wave your hand at in indifference and say ‘whatever, I got this’. Smile when you’re mad, when you’re hating your day, when that person totally irritated you and made you want to throw your desk chair through a window. You’ll rob those moments of their power over you. Have you ever realised that? You are constantly being tricked into having a bad day. I won’t go so far as to suggest you also give yourself a pep-talk, but I won’t discourage it because I’ve done that. I admit it!! I need all the help I can get, even if all I have is me to give it. I’ve come out on the other side of being victimised by my moods – or at least realised it and want to overcome that – and I feel compelled to warn you to do that too.
I have bad days. Somedays I don’t like people. They irritate the h*ck out of me. I won’t smile at them, I’ll avoid eye contact instead. I fume about some stupid decision a manager or co-worker made about something. I rage about the injustice of this and that. And you know what happens on those days? People pick up on my mood. They ask me if I’m okay. I’m then annoyed and a little mortified that I wear my emotions on my face because apparently to them I’m usually sunny. I’ve gone past the point of no return, I have to smile. I take a deep breath and calm down. Because I’ve become addicted to having a little joy in my life. I warn you, once you try this and it sticks, there’s no going back, because feeling pooey about your day will become the unnatural stance to have rather than the other way around. There’s not always a good reason to smile. You just do it. I don’t care what your argument against it is, and nor should you, because a smile in that situation is the most powerful smile of all. Sometimes you need to have a good cry or a hissy fit and that’s fine, I have those days, but most of the time you don’t.
Smile. It won’t cost you anything but your bad mood, if that sounds good to you.