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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Smile


Smile. Come on...you know you want to. You can do it. Do you need a joke? A tickle? A wink from a loved one? An old memory? Or maybe witness a random act of kindness? I could go on and on about reasons you might smile, but my point is that there are plenty of reasons to smile...plus maybe some you haven't thought of. 

My friend Tim posted today about a Smile and a Little Hope over on the Whacko Blog. That got me thinking about a post I wrote on my own blog a while back called Smile-Super Deluxe. I figured since Tim was trying to spread some smiles over on the Whacko Blog, I would follow suit and spread some smiles here on Life Explained. (It is Tim's blog afterall.) 

I had a little extra encouragement for wanting to spread some smiles recently. In my own life, my kids have had some struggles with new friendships at school this year, my wife is working with some kids at school that could really use more smiles in their lives and I have friends who are going through some rough times in their own lives. My life isn't devoid of stress - so I'm always looking for extra smiles as well. 

As Tim pointed out in his own post, we have been seeing a lot of rudeness and negativity in our society lately...and it's seen at every level from everyday public interaction on the streets to the politicians smearing each other under the guise of campaigning. 

I admit I might be preaching to the choir here on Life Explained. We are a pretty laid back group of goofballs here. For this "spread the smiles" campaign to succeed though, I wanted to start with a group of people who were well versed in the act of smiling. 

It's a sad thought, but the time I remember seeing the most smiles while out in public was during the days following the 9/11 attacks. I lived in Dallas, TX, at the time. For those of you not familiar with living in a big city, there's not typically a lot of smiling and interacting with strangers in public. Heck, most people don't even seem to know who their neighbors are. 

That changed for a while after 9/11. People were united, greeting each other with a smile and actually interacting with strangers on a regular basis. There's nothing like a tragedy at the national level to bring us together. It was nice to see, but unfortunately short lived. We're now back to arguing, bickering, fighting and....not smiling enough.

I've use smiles to break the ice and/or come off as non-threatening to strangers. Believe it or not, it actually works over the phone as well. Yes, you can actually hear a smile. Amazing right? We have to start somewhere and since I am the self-appointed champion of smiling, I will give you a few pointers for getting started.

Drive-by smiling
I use the drive-by smile all the time. It works in every setting assuming you use the right smile. The smile you display when passing a stranger in the grocery store is not the same smile you'd use at a funeral. 

In the "stranger in a store" scenario it is vital that your smile says "I'm a nice, non-threatening and pleasant guy" and not "I'm a crazy psycho picking out my next victim." In the funeral example, your smile should say "I'm here for you with uplifting support" and not "I bet you're excited about the big inheritance." 

Stick-it-to-'em smiling
This form of smiling is useful for both the professional smiler and those trying to learn how to smile but aren't yet comfortable with it. Tim's post mentioned the stereotypical "one-fingered wave" when someone cuts you off in traffic. It's thrilling to give the jerk a big smile (throw in a friendly wave for bonus points) and watch the look of utter confusion spread across their face. They don't know how to take it because their rude behavior didn't seem to affect you. It will also bug them to no end trying to figure out what you were so happy about. 

Another useful situation for this smile is when you're confronted with a threatening person face to face. You have to be careful with this one because it can also set them off and escalate the situation. I have on more than one occasion used a smile in response to someone getting verbally abusive with me. More often than not, it resulted in deescalating the situation. They either realize how silly the situation is or they get scared because they can't figure out why you're smiling. Like I said though, use this smile with caution.

The baby smile
There is a long running joke in my family about how my wife (girlfriend at the time) literally laughed in my dad's face when she first met him. My mom and I had just finished telling my would-be wife how my dad would smile big and lower his tone (like talking to a baby) whenever he met a woman. It was a disarming smile and tone he's used for years because he's a 6'5" bearded man and is rather intimidating if you don't know him. (I apparently do this all the time myself now too.) Anyway, my dad used that smile and tone when I introduced them and she burst into laughter.  

Whatever smile you want to use is fine with me - just use them! You won't run out of smiles. In fact, you will be energized to smile more. Smiles are contagious - just like a yawn. You'll be amazed how good you feel throughout the day if you smile at everyone you meet. Give it a try. It won't cost you anything. Until next time....