"Everyone Smiles In the Same Language"
I came across this quote the other day and thought what a powerful action a smile can be. I’m not talking about the “have a nice day” type, but the genuine, sincere, joyous one that you can see in the eyes not just on the mouth. So I asked myself…
What’s the potential power of a smile?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a smile as a “facial expression indicating pleasure, or amusement, with lips stretched and their ends upturned.” Even the definition makes you want to do it!
It is a universal sign of happiness and has the capacity to transcend the boundaries of race, culture, social status and religion. It can truly light up a person’s face and make them seem more approachable, friendly and attractive. It apparently even takes fewer muscles to achieve than a frown. All damn good reasons to do more of it if you ask me!
I travel to London on business occasionally and am still amazed to observe so many apparently miserable people on their commute into the City. Being in that sort of environment can really sap your energy. It makes me grateful I don’t have to do it every day because I can see how easy it would be to follow suit if you are subjected to it day in day out.
The amount of activities people find to distract them from having to make eye contact or, god forbid, talk to anyone is quite inventive. Ipods, Kindles, newspapers, books, big headphones, Ipads, PCs, mobile phones, even reading the ads on the wall – you name it and its being used in one form or another as a barrier, shielding the person from any potentially undesirable encounter with a madman or woman. There seems to be some unwritten rule that smiling and eye contact with your fellow passengers is strictly forbidden. You smile on a train or tube and people will either think your weird, barking mad or have criminal intent!
So what happens to these people when they get into work? Do they step out of tube trauma, into a working wonderland? I guess that depends on a number of factors. One notable consideration is, if you spend the best part of your life at work you should really be doing something you LOVE. Brian Mayne refers to it as “do the thing that makes your heart sing.” Lovely sentiment isn’t it?
So are you?
If you aren’t, chances are, work will excite you as much as your tube or train journey and the people who work with you, or around you will not be having much fun either. Frankly life is too short to wake up dreading the thought of getting out of bed to go to a job you can’t stand.
If you work in a customer oriented industry you really need to be passionate about people. Like anyone who is great at what they do; people who like people make customer interactions seem effortless.
If you’re responsible for recruitment, employ people who have a great attitude; who smile naturally, love people and who are genuinely interested in making a difference.
If you are an owner, director or manager within your organisation you really need to walk your talk. People respond to what they see you do, rather than what you ask them to do. You are their role model and are on show the whole time.
Research shows that people who understand their roles and feel a sense of belonging to a team are happier in their work, more committed to their colleagues and less likely to take time off. A friend of mine categorises people as radiators or drains; the former exudes warmth and are a pleasure to be around, the latter draws the life out of you! Whether you’re a manager or not you still have a responsibility to support your team. After all wouldn’t you prefer to work around life’s radiators?
Your customers also want to feel they belong; to be somewhere they fit in, with people they like and can trust. To achieve this, your team needs to authentically reflect your values and sincerely convey these to your customers. People don’t leave people, so if you genuinely portray a professional, helpful, friendly environment you are more likely to attract this sort of customer. I know I’d much rather be surrounded by positive people than greeted with a snarl, or by someone with a face like a slapped backside!
It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking yourself too seriously. I have certainly been guilty of this in the past. Thankfully my perspective has changed over the years and as a consequence I’m a much more relaxed individual who tries to see the humour in most things. I’d have probably gone quite mad years ago if I didn’t! The important thing here of course is you have the ability to choose what you think and how you feel. You can be a “drain” or a “radiator” – entirely your choice.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
So if you’re still not convinced her are a few reasons why you should, in the words of Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side of life.” Or as Ian Drury once sang here are some “Reasons to be cheerful…”
- A smile and a sense of humour costs nothing
- When you’re happy, your brain releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine into the body affecting your sense of well-being and increasing pain tolerance
- It’s infectious, so you’ll encourage others to follow your lead, just check this out and see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKnY8tBLG3g
- People will generally respond more positively to you
- Research shows laughing reduces stress related conditions, like high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, social phobia, heart disease and headaches
- Happy people sleep better and feel healthier
- Laughter boosts the immune system, lifts your spirits and makes you feel better which means less sickness absenteeism
- A good laugh is excellent exercise as it increases your oxygen levels and works the muscles involved in breathing
- Having fun makes your day more enjoyable and will enhance your customers experience of your service
- A happier environment will improve customer retention – people are less likely to leave people they like
- It’s something you can do quite naturally – just try it!
And remember "Seven days without laughter makes one weak" - Mort Walker
So, it really is up to you. Go on, SMILE! (The genuine, sincere type) You’re on Stage!