The Three E's

Etiquette, Ethics and Empathy in the Workplace (and in Life)

 

Jeanne Nelson

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Monday
Feb062012

Your Most Powerful Secret Weapon

 

One of the most iconic symbols of our time is the Smiley Face. It’s been around since the 1960s with many variations, including the ones that people draw after their signatures or the ones in email emoticons to indicate that a statement is meant in a friendly manner. But why is it that so many people know to use Smiley to indicate kindness and friendliness in the written word, yet don’t use their natural smiles in person-to-person contact?

Your most powerful secret weapon -- to disarm, persuade, influence and generally affect people in a positive way -- is your smile!

Despite this, how many people are smiling at you? How many people have you smiled at today?

Why is this so important? In your academic or professional life, smiling is essential to connect with people. When introduced to someone, it’s expected that you will shake hands, smile and make eye contact. In everyday circumstances, it’s important to smile at people—your parents, teachers, professors, clients, administrators, coworkers, managers, receptionists, secretaries, campus and company security officers, custodians, pages, vendors, visitors, people with whom you are acquainted and those you see in passing. These are the people who can impact your life for better or worse. Smiling at them will make them feel better about themselves, and about you. Smiling is also beneficial to your health, frame of mind and wellbeing.

Someone once said, “If you don’t start out the day with a smile, it’s not too late to start practicing for tomorrow.” So, let’s begin!

Practice Makes Perfect :)

You may be someone for whom smiling comes easy, and you readily spread that smile around. Even so, there might be times when smiling takes some effort or when something or someone makes your ready smile waver. Or you might be among those for whom smiling does not come so easily. No worries -- there are ways to polish and activate your secret weapon!


  1. Focus on others. It’s easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and issues and shut out the people around you. Tests, presentations, financial issues and the like weigh on you, or sometimes you just start out the day on the wrong foot. But, try to focus on others in a positive way and don’t take out your problems on them. Giving those you pass and greet with a warm, friendly smile can improve your mood and cause others to view you in a more favorable light and possibly turn your day around.

  2. Practice in the mirror. It helps to see yourself as others do. Practice various smiles, from those with your lips closed to those that show a lot of teeth. Such exercises not only help to identify your most natural-looking and attractive smiles, but they allow you to get rid of your inhibitions about smiling. It’s a bit like singing in the shower. And, notice how appealing you look when you smile?

  3. Make your smile reach your eyes. A sincere smile comes from your heart and reaches your eyes. A fake or frozen smile is worse than no smile and can have the opposite affect for which you had hoped by freaking out the very people you're trying attract. Your goal is to network, not have someone throw a net over you.

  4. Think of something that makes you want to smile. When you need to smile but aren’t quite in the mood, think of an especially good time you once had, something that made you laugh or feel really good or someone who makes you happy. After awhile, your smiling will become automatic and natural.

  5. Fix that which needs fixing. If you’re not smiling because you’re self-conscious about your teeth, take steps to fix it. If it’s a matter of straightening, whitening or filling in missing teeth, there are numerous ways to approach these problems. If you can’t afford to make a big fix right now, make small fixes until you find a way to take care of the larger problems. Keep in mind that many things that bother you might not bother others, and they might even find them endearing.  


The Power of a Smile

 

Think about the times a smile, or lack of one, made you feel about a person or situation. For instance, have you ever been greeted in a retail store, restaurant or doctor’s office by an unsmiling person who has made you feel unwelcome? Alternatively, did being greeted with a warm smile put you in a positive and receptive frame of mind?

Now turn it around: Imagine going to a college event or job fair and not smiling at anyone! How far do you think you’d get? Recruiters are looking for students and young professionals who are upbeat and can contribute in a positive way to their campuses or companies; they might be underwhelmed if you don’t present yourself with a smile, warmth and enthusiasm.

Smiling is also essential to networking, and it’s never too soon to start building your network of people with whom you can connect throughout your life and career. Before your career begins, start smiling at those who are not in your immediate circle of friends. And, if you want to meet someone in particular, smile at him or her! As someone once observed, “the shortest distance between two people is a smile.”

If you’re not smiling due to social anxiety or shyness, know that if you smile people will usually smile back; and, if at first they don’t, or even return your smile with a scowl, keep trying. Eventually, your smile will triumph.

Your smile can change the way people feel about themselves and change their outlooks on life for the better; it’s your secret weapon to start changing your life and the world for the better, one smile at a time.

 

Until next time,

Jeanne

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