May 22 – The power of a smile

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” (Mother Teresa)

I love a good smile. When I have a natural one on my face, it is a sign to the world that all is relatively well with me. When I see one on someone else, it usually helps turn the corners of my mouth upward as well. Facial expressions can be very contagious, and an outbreak of smiles would definitely rank among my favorites.

I sit in a team room with 8 other people, and all of us work on the same large-scale project. From time to time several of us will be on the same conference call talking to people from around the world. These conference calls can be routine, or they can be the result of a specific assignment. Sometimes the events taking place on the call are such that two of us will unavoidably look up and make eye contact. Volumes are spoken in that brief encounter, and when that exchange of expression includes a smile, the moods of both of us will pick up.

I have read that some call centers have mirrors installed in the workstations of the people who are on the phone all day. The idea is to remind them to smile when talking to customers. When we are smiling, our whole disposition changes, and how we present ourselves, even when the other person can’t see us, changes for the better. Judging by some recent calls I have had with customer service centers, the presence of the mirror and the idea of smiling on the phone isn’t universal. But, when I have a particularly good experience calling in to a company, it makes me wonder whether the guy or gal on the other end does, indeed, have a mirror handy.

A few years back my wife and I joined another couple on a long weekend trip to South Florida. Because of my size, and my daily knee pain, I don’t particularly like to fly. I always try to sit in an aisle seat so that I can stretch my knee during the flight. And, I usually battle the boredom of the experience with an in flight nap. While flying on this particular trip, my knee was hurting, I was crammed into my seat, and my sinuses were bothering me. I was looking forward very much to the destination, but the trip itself was not feeling very good. As usual, I fell asleep for about an hour with my face turned toward the aisle. When I woke up and opened one eye, there was a baby of about 8 or 9 months in age looking directly at me. As my eyes fluttered open I was greeted with the biggest, sweetest smile by this adorable little girl.

My wife was seated behind me for the flight, and she told me that this baby had been looking me over for some time, and was trying her best to get my attention. Immediately on waking up and seeing that cute smile, my mood improved. Surely my mood was going to get a lot better as soon as I stepped off the plane, but that process was sped up greatly by that smile.

As it turns out, I have a terrible fake smile. I am certain that some actors and actresses practice their facial expressions in a mirror from time to time. I am always amazed that they can put on an expression that looks natural, even when sometimes it is fake. I have no such talent. I have tried looking in the mirror and making a natural-looking smile. I usually just look creepy. Either my eyes don’t match up, or the smile looks too big or too small. For me, there is no faking it with a smile, if it isn’t coming naturally, it isn’t coming.

Today I am going to take mental note of how often I look at someone and they smile back at me. When taking my daily walks around the building at work, I am going to keep my head up and make eye contact with my fellow walkers. I am sure I will be smiling because it will be a gorgeous day and I am out for a walk, and I am certain they will be smiling too. It will be fun to have silent smile fests with relative strangers while getting some exercise.

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