Look in the mirror…and give yourself a big smile. Are you happy with the smile looking back at you? How much does it matter? According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), 90 percent of Americans agree that an attractive smile is an important social asset. Seventy-five percent agree that an unattractive smile can hurt a person’s chances for career success. However, only 50 percent of Americans are satisfied with their smile.
THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF A SMILE
Why does a smile say so much? Mainly because it’s in a central, very noticeable position of one’s face. It’s also one of our key sources of non-verbal communication. A smile conveys a powerful range of emotion to others, from acceptance to confidence, to greeting to happiness. Many experts state that a smile, or lack of one, can make a significant difference in our professional and personal lives. Barbara Walters once said, “There are few times in our life when it isn’t too melodramatic to say that your destiny hangs on the impression you make.” According to Maui resident and lecturer Sam Horn in her book Concrete Confidence, smiling is essential in creating a solid first impression, and in putting yourself and others at ease in that first five minutes of an interaction. She writes, “The very first step to establishing a positive response in another person is to flash them a genuine, heartfelt smile…. Simply said, it’s hard to dislike someone who smiles at you. A smile sets up a reciprocal reaction. Recipients almost involuntarily smile back.”
She continues that, just as in one-on-one interactions, smiling makes a striking difference for public speaking. Especially for beginners, if a speaker is preoccupied with their fears, they often greet their audience with a stern look and launch into their speech. The effect is appearing unfriendly and harsh. If a big, warm smile is the initial greeting, they appear friendly and establish immediate rapport. “A smile can raise the mood and increase the receptivity of those within its perimeter.”
Sam Horn also writes that another important factor in a good first impression is eye contact. In fact, research has shown that people who pair a smile with eye contact are more successful in their interactions with others than those who do not smile. Smiling people are in general perceived to be more trustworthy and can often be more persuasive, whether in a business or social setting.
So fundamental is a smile in our society that our nation expressed heartfelt sympathy several years ago when we heard through the media about seven-year-old Chelsey Thomas of California who could not smile. She was born with Moebius Syndrome, which is a rare disorder where the nerves and muscles do not permit facial expression. Can you imagine a life where you could not express your joy or happiness with a smile? Can you imagine a life where people assume you’re mad all the time? We all thought it was horrendous. Gladly, we were able to all breathe with relief when she could be helped with corrective surgeries.
SMILING IS GOOD FOR YOU!
According to an article in Men’s Health magazine, there are a multitude of other reasons why you should smile. This article states, “If there has ever been a simple strategy for improving the quality of life, it’s smiling.” As a benefit to yourself, smiling can make you feel good. Certainly we smile when we’re happy, but did you know that you feel happier when you make yourself smile? Smiling produces positive feelings and changes your emotional state for the better. So instead of waiting for the effect to cause you to smile, initiate the effect yourself: show your aloha and smile.
A smile can also help bring about better health for you, as smiling reduces stress. People under stress tend to have a lowered immune system, which may lead to illness. So in addition to getting a flu shot, keep grinning.
EVEN MORE GOOD REASONS TO SMILE
As you probably know, other people make conclusions about you based on your smile. What may surprise you is that it happens in all facets of life. For example, people like to be around smiling people. Your smiling tells others they are well regarded and will feel better about themselves. In one survey, women rated smiling as the number one physical characteristic which initially attracted them to men. A smile beat out other features, such as eyes and physique! So never underestimate the power of a smile.
Another study showed smiling increased the perception of a person’s ability on the job. While still another study concluded that when polling college students about punishing their peers, those who smiled in their photos tended to receive a more lenient punishment for college academic infractions than those who didn’t smile, regardless of guilt. Now this is not to say that a dazzling smile can take the place of hard work in your career, or a huge grin can get you out of a speeding ticket, but you have to admit it is interesting to know what research does show.
THE LIFE-CHANGING POWER OF A SMILE MAKEOVER
So, does a smile have the power to change your life? Absolutely. You may want to take the challenge given by an article in American Salesman titled, “Experiment with a Smile.” The author suggests that tomorrow when you start off your day, put a little smile on your face. Not a big grin that will cause others to talk about you behind your back, but a pleasant crack of a smile, and keep it there. The author hypothesizes that this exercise will have a magnificent effect. “Problems you are having will vanish. Your mind becomes attuned to positive high spirits. The air will feel better to your face. That smile will penetrate into your very heart and soul. You cannot tune in goodwill and the friendship of others when you are broadcasting indifference. It is surprising how people will notice you. The smile has a magnetic power of attraction. It even penetrates into the mind and consciousness of others.” The author says to turn smiling into a habit, to do it all day, every day, and you will enjoy the benefits of your happy expression.
Someone once said, “A smile is a passport that will take you anywhere you want to go.” I have seen great changes in patients after a smile makeover. They went from being self-conscious of their smile to wanting to smile all the time; from being uncertain of themselves and their goals to feeling very confident and achievement-oriented. Because of this, I am a firm believer in the power of the smile and the extraordinary effect on its owner. So remember to wear your smile all day, every day, and see the gifts of happiness come back to you!