Today’s advice might sound squishy, like something you might find in a new age or self-help book; however, I think your own experience will jive with the scientific research on the topic.
Food for Thought
1. If all other things are equal (ability, integrity, ambition) between two individuals, one who smiles and one who frowns, which one are you more likely to choose to join your team?
2. If all others things are equal (attractiveness, intelligence, SES) between two potential dates, one who smiles and one who frowns, which one are you more likely to invite to dinner?
I first began to realize the power of smiling when I traveled to Iran in 2004 with a small group of American and German astronomers to view the Transit of Venus. Wherever we went in Iran, an older German gentleman named Ralf, a very friendly man in his 60s, ended up being extremely popular with everyone he encountered. It was impressive as he met more people by himself than many of the group did collectively. From museums to bazaars, Persian men and women would approach Ralf to converse with him, even though he spoke virtually no Farsi or English, just Bavarian German.
I ate breakfast with Ralf almost every morning, and he would always greet me a hardy “Good Morning” in English and a huge smile! After watching him for a few days, I realized that it was this wonderful smile that attracted so many strangers to his side. In fact, on one occasion, our entire party was invited to a wonderful and scenic afternoon tea (as is the custom) in the mountains due to his eye-catching smile.
Science and Business
Smiling is not magic; however, it does give one an advantage within our dualist cooperative/competitive world. It alone cannot insure success, but like illustrated in the above questions, it can distinguish you above others.
Various scientific studies suggest that the mere presence of a smile is likely to illicit cooperation from strangers as well as friends and colleagues.
It is no surprise that presidential candidates go out of their way to smile. Likewise, advertisers normally show people enjoying ‘product X’ including huge smiles.
The phrase ‘service with a smile’ exists for a reason. Repeat customers are most likely when they feel the representatives of the company truly cared. Smiling is a great way to communicate that. Likewise, when asking people to complete assignments, a smile will help projects get completed more quickly.
Jörn P.W. Scharlemann, Catherine C. Eckel, Alex Kacelnik and Rick K. Wilson. (2001). The value of a smile: Game theory with a human face. Journal of Economic Psychology, 22, p.617-640.