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The Perfect Smile

How the perfect smile can improve your communication.

The Perfect Smile

Never underestimate the power of a smile.

What does your face look like when you think no one is looking? Most of us wear a habitual face that reflects our inner mood. If you're often tense and worried, your usual face will reflect that with frown lines on your forehead and lips that turn down at the corners. If you're generally upbeat and happy, your face will reflect that, too. The corners of your mouth will turn up and your expression will be smoother and more approachable. People naturally trust those that smile at them. A smiling face is welcoming and inviting. It makes people feel good. The smile is such a universally accepted feel-good symbol that Howard Ball's 'smiley face' which consisted of two dots and a curved line swept the entire world. Even the ubiquitous smiley buttons bring a smile to our faces and make us feel good.

Let me tell you a personal story here. When I was in high school, I read somewhere that the best way to get yourself out of a bad mood and into a good one is to smile at someone. Smiles make us feel good about ourselves, the book said. When you smile at someone, they'll smile back out of reflex - and their smile will make you feel better. So, if you're in a bad mood, make it a point to smile at people when you see them, even if you don't feel like it. You'll find yourself feeling more cheerful in no time. It seemed silly, but when I tried it, I found that it was true. If I smiled at someone walking down the street, they'd smile back - and it DID make me feel better. Before long, smiling at people when I caught their eye became a habit that I never even thought about - I just did it.

One of my classmates in high school was a quiet, shy girl named Cindy. Because our last names followed each other alphabetically, she sat in the seat in front of me in every homeroom from freshman to senior year. She had her own friends and I had mine, and we seldom talked at all beyond a nod and a smile of greeting when we passed in the hall. When we graduated, Cindy wrote in my yearbook, "I want you to know how important you've been to me the past four years. Your smile has been the one thing I could count on every day. No matter how horrible I felt when I got off the bus, I knew that I'd walk into the classroom and you'd smile at me and it would make me feel better. Thank you for helping me make it through some of the worst days of my life."

The smile is one of the most communicative and infectious expressions of which the human face is capable. It's the first expression that infants learn to consciously use to get a response from others. Study after study has shown that we consider smiling faces to be more attractive than frowns or any other expression. A smile says that you are happy and self-confident, pleased with the world and yourself. Smiling at someone is a signal of approval - and it's nearly impossible to dislike someone who is giving you approval.

It's also nearly impossible to resist smiling back when someone smiles at you. If you doubt that, try my experiment yourself. As you walk down the street or the halls or the aisles of a supermarket, make a conscious effort to smile at anyone who meets your eye and count how many automatically smile back. Nearly every one of them will - and most will continue to smile even after you pass them. Being smiled at makes us feel good about ourselves. The simple act of exchanging smiles is an enormous mood booster.

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