Mind Your Face, Be a Difference Maker

The Smile Test

Maybe it’s because I am out and about a lot, but it seems that people are angry. Each week I visit a new airport or country only to find the same stern and serious faces on the people I encounter. This caused me to do a face-check on myself…guess what, I too was defaulting to a stern, serious, angry looking presentation.

The Choice

So, I decided to do a little test. I decided that every time I am walking in a public place (airport, restaurant, hotel lobby, city street) no matter where in the world I am, I am going to smile. I am going to smile “at people” and I am going to smile in general as I move from place to place. By the way, it is a decision, a choice as to how you are going to present yourself. Default position – frown, stern, serious. Choice position – smiling, grinning, happy.

The Findings

The first thing I learned was be careful about smiling too much in airports. I think the TSA was following me to see if I was up to something. I’m kidding, but smiling in airports is so unusual that I half expected that to be true.

As I began to “mind my face”, I noticed an unusual response from others.

  • Some folks smiled back, and generally with a slight nod that said, “greetings”.
  • Some folks had a grin and a visible loosening of their shoulders that said, “good for you”.
  • Some folks just had a loosening of their own facial expression that said, “nice”.
  • Some folks kept scowling that said, “what are you smiling about…I’ll knock that smile….” (you get the point)

The Lesson

Here is what I learned:

  1. It’s just as easy to smile at folks as it is to scowl.
  2. Everyone is dealing with something and my smile, as small and insignificant as it is in their life, provides a moment of kindness.
  3. People in general don’t know how angry they look, I know I didn’t.
  4. You will stand out in a crowd if you smile versus scowl.
  5. It will make you feel better, more grateful, more thankful, less stressed
  6. It will make others feel noticed.

Just a final word about #6. I believe that everything happens for a reason. From time to time, a well placed smile can lead to a conversation. These conversations are usually short and very surface level conversations. After one of these short interactions on an airplane the guy that I smiled at and spoke to turned back to me as he was walking away and said, “thank you for making me feel seen”. That troubled me for the rest of that day and few more after it. What an odd thing to say. Then it hit me, a lot of people go through life feeling invisible to others; like they don’t matter and no one cares. A smile was all I did to make that man feel seen. To me it was a smile in passing. To him it was a lifeline that said, “I matter”.

Smile more, bark less as the bumper sticker says, well kind of, at least that’s what it should say. You never know what your smile will say to someone you pass.

Photo Credit – GraphicStock.com

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