(This is part two of a five-part series. Read Part I here.)

I mentioned in an earlier post on having impact that as we go through our day, there are simple things we can do to be intentional in our relationships with others. I wanted to elaborate on that a little more by writing a five-part series dedicated to discussing some practical ways you can do this in your day-to-day life.

Smile like you mean it.

Have you ever noticed how we tend to gravitate towards people who smile more? What’s actually in a smile that we like so much?

In an article published by Disa A. Sauter and Stephen C. Levinson titled “What’s embodied in a smile?” they wrote:

“… displays of amusement and pride were signaled by smiles, but that amused smiles tended to be open-mouthed, whereas smiles of pride had compressed lips. In contrast, awe was typically expressed with raised eyebrows and a slightly open mouth, but not with smiles. This study highlights that there is likely more than one kind of smile and that different smile configurations may communicate different affective states.”[Disa A. Sauter and Stephen C. Levinson (2010). What’s embodied in a smile?. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33 , pp 457-458 doi:10.1017/S0140525X10001597]

It seems our smiles can literally speak volumes about what we’re experiencing internally. Have you thought about what your smile (or lack thereof) is saying to those around you?

A strong, genuine smile makes you feel valuable and important. Conversely, a forced or fake smile can create tension or even hurt someone’s feelings.

A study from The University of Miami even learned that people who experience rejection might be able to better distinguish a fake smile from the real thing. They hypothesize this is because those who are aquatinted with rejection eventually learn cues that indicate insincerity, which helps them identify when to avoid wasting energies on potentially harmful relationships.[1]

This begs the question: how many times does someone have to experience rejection before they develop skills for telling the difference between a genuine smile and an insincere smile – all so they won’t be hurt?

But “fake smiling” doesn’t just affect those who have experienced rejection.It can have some pretty big impacts internally for you too.

Another study published in the Academy of Management Journal, researchers Brent Scott and Christopher Barnes discovered that fake smiling can actually be worse for you than not smiling at all. In a practice labeled “surface acting”, they discovered that employees who were required to “put on a face” for their boss were prone to burn out and in some cases depression.[2]

Turns out “keepin’ it real” is actually healthy for you!

The bottom line is that smiling is one of those tiny actions that has huge impact. The next time you’re out shopping, meeting new people, ordering food or even talking over the phone, be aware that your smile is affecting those around you just as much as it’s affecting you.

So do yourself and others a favor and smile like you mean it!


1. Association for Psychological Science. “Phony Friends? Rejected People Better Able To Spot Fake Smiles.” ScienceDaily, 24 Oct. 2008. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

2. Michigan State University. “For a better workday, smile like you mean it.” ScienceDaily, 22 Feb. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

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