Smiles – are not always as they first appear

What’s the message behind your smile?
Article Text: Smiles are not “just” a frown turned upside down. The impact and power of smiling is unmeasurable. The benefits are countless. Read the article below to gain a better understanding of how smiling can enhance your emotional intelligence. Then scroll back up to visit some of these fun links about smiles.
Smiles – Better than Sex or Chocolate
According to research, seeing a smile can give more pleasure than sex or eating chocolate. Click on this link to read more:

How good are you … at recognizing a genuine smile from a fake one?
Take this 10-minute test, based on the research of Paul Ekman, in which you watch brief video clips of 20 people smiling.

Benefits of Smiling
Scientific research and countless surveys evidence the importance that smiling plays in your happiness and success in life. Here are some of their findings:

• Smiling improves your sex appeal – both men and women rated smiles as the top attraction factor to the opposite sex.
• Smiles make people approachable – 86% of people say that they are more likely to strike up conversations with strangers if they are smiling.
• Smiles are contagious – 72% of respondents always smile back when someone smiles at them first.
• Smiling improves your chances of moving up the ladder at work – bosses are 12% more likely to promote people who smile a lot.
• Smiling improves your immune system — by stimulating the release of endorphins and killer T-cells.
• Smiling improves your mood and improves the mood of the person you are smiling at – by increasing the production of serotonin.
• Smiling lowers stress – by reducing cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline.
• Smiling reduces pain – by producing hormones which stabilize blood pressure, relax muscles, improve respiration, and accelerate healing.

Smiles Reduce Food Cravings
Some experts list “reduced food cravings” as one of the many benefits that a smile provides. I don’t know if this is true, but the mere suggestion that smiling could wipe out my craving for a cookie — that makes me smile.

Need a smile?
Watch four minutes of incredible smiling.
YouTube – Reason To Smile/music & lyrics by Kashy Keegan 2007

Smiles – are not always as they first appear.
Even though smiling is generally perceived as a willingness to cooperate, a sign of acceptance, a gesture of friendliness or a reflection of happiness, all smiles are not created equal nor are they flashed with the same intentions.

Johann Kaspar Lavater, a Swiss Theologian who lived from 1741-1801 said, “There are many kinds of smiles, each having a distinct character. Some announce goodness, and sweetness, others betray sarcasm, bitterness, and pride; some soften the countenance by their languishing tenderness, others brighten by their spiritual vivacity. ”

Each of us smiles in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. Some smiles are an outward expression of our inner thoughts and feelings. Other smiles serve to be a mask that covers up our true feelings or intentions.

Paul Ekman, a psychology professor who has studied human emotions for over 40 years, and author of Emotions Revealed, separates smiles into two main categories — genuine smiles associated with enjoyment emotions, and fake or forced smiles associated with non-enjoyment emotions.

Authentic smiles happen in a flash, but their brilliance lasts a lifetime. Genuine smiles occur naturally and spontaneously to express a variety of enjoyment emotions which include happiness, excitement, amusement, wonder or surprise. Genuine smiles light up our face with a sparkle in our eyes and radiate warmth from our hearts. The intensity and impact of a genuine smile far exceeds that of any other kind of smile.

There are many different non-enjoyment smiles. Many situations prompt us to “put on a happy face” even when we feel differently on the inside. Interestingly, even when there is no emotional enjoyment felt nor attached to an intentional smile, it is frequently received as the “real thing.”

Polite smiles communicate agreement, approval, or indicate understanding. Even when we don’t agree, or can’t understand, if we smile and nod, it will be perceived that we do. (Whew! That’s a relief!)

Polite smiles also signal a non-confrontational position. Grin-and-bear-it smiles reflect feeling unhappy or even miserable, but able to tolerate it. They can also demonstrate feeling painfully frustrated, but determined to not give up. Another polite smile sends a message that says, “Hi, but … I’m too busy to talk.”

We display forced smiles to respond to uncomfortable situations or to mask our true feelings. Smiling to show good sportsmanship covers up disappointment. Smiling after feeling ridiculed is an attempt to deflect embarrassment or hurt. We smile to conceal loneliness, sadness, or signal we are doing well, when we’re not.

Imagine…what if it wasn’t so easy for us to conceal our true feelings behind a smile? Gee, we might actually learn to communicate how we truly feel, and eliminate a lot of confusion and conflict? Yet, it is equally important to note there are situations, when it is in our best interest not to show our true feelings.

A fake smile purposely forecasts a false meaning and shields a deceitful intention. Do you recall a time when someone tried to sell you something, or convinced you to say yes when you wanted to say no? Their smile said, “Trust me.” But, your gut instinct warned, “Something’s not quite right.” That’s because you perceived an incongruency — a smile posing as a friendly gesture concealing a hidden agenda. Trust your internal wisdom.

Not all fake smiles are created equal, either. Fake smiles can also work to our advantage. Our brain believes what our face says. By pasting a smile on our face, even a fake one, we experience all the benefits of a real smile, and feel happier. On the same note, when someone is feeling down and out, almost any smile we gave them would be received as a welcome friend.

Confused? Smiles are one of our most powerful forms of communication. They may very well be one of the most misunderstood, too. Building on the work of a French neurologist, Duchenne, de Boulogne, Ekman and his associates confirmed the ability to distinguish between a real smile and a fake one. Only genuine smiles involve a certain muscle around the eyes. The average person doesn’t catch this subtlety.

It might be easy to learn how to distinguish the difference between a genuine and a fake smile. With practice, you can learn how to pick up on emotional cues and become more aware of how someone is feeling.

But, it is dangerous and harmful to assume you know how someone is feeling or that you know what is causing their emotion. It is not your job to evaluate every smile nor to interpret the emotions revealed or concealed. Nor is it necessary.

Two ways you can benefit from becoming more aware of the valuable messages within our smiles:

helps you identify when you are masking your true emotions with a fake smile, so you can uncover the reason you are holding back from authentically communicating your true feelings.

improves your ability to pick up on emotional cues from others and become more aware of how someone is feeling, so you can determine how to interact with them. Depending on the person and the situation, you might ask, “Is something bothering you?” Or, “Is there something you’d like to say?” Some people will be receptive to your asking and will open up and share their feelings. Others will take offense that you are questioning their authenticity. It’s important to respect their privacy.
Smiles, are not always as they first appear. Smiles cause confusion. One thing that is crystal clear, is the mutual benefits that smiling provides and the powerful impact smiling has on our lives.

“Keep smiling, it makes people wonder what you’re up to.” — Author unkown

Resources: “FEATURE/ Grin and bare them for National Smile Week; new survey reveals attitudes toward smiling ” Business Wire. August 3, 1995

Ekman, Paul, 2003. Emotions Revealed

Article Signature:
Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois, works with individuals and organizations who want to learn how to use the power of humor and the magic of laughter to handle the demands and pressures of work and home, adjust to constant change, deal with difficult people, cope with the unpredictable swift pace of life, product positive outcomes and have more fun.

Learning to laugh and “hangin’ on with humor” rescued Lois from the distress and despair surrounding her daily life, and initiated her recovery from a brain injury. Lois’ keynotes and trainings entertain, inspire and stimulate audiences to examine their own response to challenge and adversity. Hilarious personal stories, “Lessons from Lois” impart life-changing insights and equip participants with humor strategies and practical solutions to overcome the seriousness of their life challenges and feel happy.

Her universal message renews hope and motivates others to consistently do small things so they can achieve amazing results one day at a time.

©2012 Lois McElravy, Lessons from Lois – Permission to reprint or repost this article is granted by including the above byline and Lois’ contact information.