The Science of the Smile
In October 2015, a robot took center stage at a Wall Street Journal Live event in Laguna Beach California. Pepper, one of the first robots with the ability to identify and respond to emotions, can discern the difference between happy and sad, responding with appropriate body language. Already “employed” by thousands of businesses in Japan, the amazing Pepper has a trick for differentiating between an encounter with a human versus, say, a piece of furniture. The difference is: humans smile.
The “science of smiling” was first discussed by Charles Darwin, who pointed out that while many other nonverbal behaviors, like gestures, differ between cultures—and are probably learned—smiling is innate to human beings. Babies born blind smile like sighted infants, and all infants learn early that while their crying garners adult attention, smiling keeps it.
The moral: if you want to engage the attention of people—or robots!—smile. Best of all, at least when it comes to people, smiling creates what psychologists call a “virtuous circle”. Smiling gets reciprocated and, in social groups, can be contagious.
Certain businesses, like the service and entertainment industries, encourage employees to smile so that it becomes a natural part of their work activity. And we can all remind ourselves to smile more. It is a relatively easy habit to adopt, because it yields quick and immediate rewards.
We want to hear. Do you notice how you respond differently to people who smile at you? Do you consciously try to smile more when you are trying to engage customers or others? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.
12/22/2015 09:34:24 am
This confirms what I have thought for quite some time. You get away with things you say when you say it with a smile even if it is something that people might not want to hear.
12/23/2015 10:38:40 am
So true, Mark. Smiling is like a magic potion that makes words easier to hear! Thanks for checking in.
12/22/2015 09:47:41 am
It's also been proven that people can hear your smile over the phone! Smiling releases good endorphins in the body that make you feel good and give you energy. Keep smiling everybody!
12/23/2015 10:39:48 am
Thanks for this, Diamond. We know someone who keeps a mirror by her phone to remind her that smiles can be heard as well as seen! Agree: Keep smiling!
9/4/2019 11:00:40 am
You raise an interesting caution Denise. Smiling and any form of communication can be used to convey a positive feeling or message, or to hoodwink the listener. When confused or uncertain a perception check could help to clarify the speaker's intentions. Thanks for sharing this with the community.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.