Monday, November 19, 2012

New Data on Smiling

Smile and the whole world smiles with you!  Weep and you weep alone.

We have all heard that adage countless times.  Nevertheless, as I walk through the corridors of business organizations, enter meetings that are about to begin, embark on various modes of transportation and even engage with the host or hostess in a restaurant, I rarely see people smiling.  Fortunately, they are not weeping either!  More likely, they are deep in thought…even frowning.

Maybe I see smiling more often if one employee is telling another to have a great vacation – or to enjoy the holiday weekend.  That said, it did make me think about the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and how we send off the people at Makovsky and what we convey to each other as we express good thoughts.  But even more broadly, what we as individuals communicate, wordlessly, in the business and professional world, as well as elsewhere.  My overall feeling is that we are just not consistently conscious of smiling and the benefits it brings to ourselves and others, otherwise we would do it more often.

So I was intrigued by a study —  “Grin and Bear It:  The Influence of ManipulatedFacial Expression on the Stress Response” — which found that forcing yourself to smile reduces stress.  According to two researchers at the University of Kansas,  the heart rates of people tested  recovering from stress were 7% slower, if they gripped a pair of chopsticks in their teeth in such a way as to force themselves to smile. 

All of this may sound a bit bizarre, but while the researchers acknowledge that “the generalizability of their findings is questionable given the artificiality of the setting,” they also contend that the study shows there are physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining a positive facial expression during stress.

Even without this study, common sense tells us that smiling at others invites them in. You will get more from them, if they feel good about the encounter.   Smiling fosters positivity.  Smiling reflects well on you.  It ignites others to return the smile, and thereby think positively also.  We are now on a positive keel.  De-stressed!  We are way up there!  Not at bottom.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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