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.