With so much talk in our country about putting up walls, it reminded me of how effective a smile can be in tearing them down.
There have been countless times where I have walked towards someone in passing when both of us have locked eyes and neither of us crack a smile.
Now to be fair there can be many reasons for this.
We’ve all been there, those occasions when you look at a person but are looking straight through them because you’ve got other things on your mind. At that very moment, it dawns on you that in rushing out the door for work, you may not have turned the kettle off on the stove. Your face is not smiling, whose thinking of that, in your mind, you’re imagining the worst and contemplating whether you should turn back towards home or not.
Or maybe you just ended a heated phone conversation with your husband, wife or significant other and your mind is still stuck on mad, therefore, smiling is the last thing you care to do.
Excluding the moments when your present but not present there are plenty of opportunities when smiling, can be most effective in breaking down barriers.
My daughters when they were younger told me numerous times that their friends said I “looked mean”. Now that’s me in the picture above and I don’t think I look mean at all so I was confused at the time why their friends thought that.
UNTIL I realized that my face in it’s resting state did indeed look mean! When I am working on a project, cooking or doing something around the house, I can really be in a zone and focused and therefore what their friends often saw was my resting face. Once I realized that I had to:
- Practice the art of intentionally smiling when I was in the presence of other people.
This is the first step for those of us, who when around others smiling just does not come naturally. You’ve been around people like this, they have that disconcerting look that gives off the vibes of being uninterested, unhappy and unapproachable.
Friends THIS WAS ME, this is exactly how I appeared to my daughter’s friends when they were around me!
Trust me when you are not used to smiling and you start intentional smiling in the presence of others, you might feel silly or awkward. But you must push through it and quiet the voices in your head that tell you that you look like a complete IDIOT for grinning aimlessly. Take it from experience it gets easier and the pay off is worth it.
Other times I found myself not smiling at strangers as I thought THEY appeared disinterested. Can you imagine me the person with the mean resting face being the accuser of her brethren! So I had to:
2. Stop assuming or caring if people aren’t going to appreciate or accept the smile.
It happens, you walk up to the entrance of a travel gas station when the door swings open and there he is standing tall and stout in front of you the person who in your mind is the most intimidating person you have ever come face-to-face with, the Harley Davison biker of the year. You both lock eyes and in a split second your decision is made “you smile and say hello, how are you”? An to your surprise in return he steps back holds the door open for you and SMILES!
You reply with an exuberant “thank you and have a nice day” in which he replies “you too ma’am”. Wow, what an exchange. Now imagine me walking up and greeting him my former “mean” resting face. I imagine it would not have been the same pleasant exchange.
Smiling breaks down barriers because you appear friendlier and approachable, opening up opportunities for you to meet and talk to people and remove perceived stereotypes and labels you’ve placed on others and vice versa.
3. Smile, and eliminate others perception of you as uncaring, preoccupied, unapproachable or disinterested… smiling is contagious.
Dare I try to recount the numerous occasions where I have smiled at someone who doesn’t look interested in receiving it. I am pleased to report that 99 percent of the time, my smile is reciprocated with a smile in return. On many occasions, some have responded by saying “you have a beautiful smile”!
At that very moment, the barrier has been broken, a dialogue has now started. In some instances the smile that generated, the impromptu conversation has provided me the opportunity to pray for someone, give assistance to someone who was seeking out a friendly face, or turned into a lasting friendship.
If you haven’t considered it, try it today and watch what barriers you break down by just simply smiling.
We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do – Mother Teresa