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The Power of a Smile

Posted on December 20, 2006

By Dave Sherman

Since I know that walking up to a total stranger is a major challenge for many of you, allow me to share with you the first of three important parts of an initial introduction.

The first and most important step to approaching new people is to have a great smile.  Some of us can do this naturally but this can be a challenge for other people.  I don’t care if you are the biggest sourpuss in the world, anyone can conjure up a good smile when they need to.

Have you ever wondered why a smile is so powerful?  It’s just a small facial expression that is caused by the upturning of your lips and the displaying of many of your teeth.  However, it’s so much more.

1) Smiles show friendship – it is kind of like a peace offering for the new people you are meeting.  It shows them that you are friendly and warm and have a desire to meet them.

2) Smiles make new friends – This is a universally known symbol of kindness.  All over the world, the smile is used to create the beginning of so many relationships.

3) Smiles make other people's day brighter – Think about the people you know that always have a smile on their face.  We typically feel happier when we see them.

4) Smiles improve your day – Try this little experiment.  The next time you are having a bad day, unclench your jaws for a while and smile.  I guarantee that you will start to feel much better.

5) Smiles put others at ease – When meeting people for the first time, the best way to create connections is to do what you can to help make the other people feel more comfortable. 


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Smiling is culture-specific though, and I don't believe its utility is universal. For example, Americans' tendency to use smiling as a social lubricant comes up again and again in French folks' list of grievances against US citizens. Many believe that it's simply hypocritical and empty, and is therefore useless at best, offensive at worst.

Personally, I think smiling is great in this country and doubtless many others, and I'm a generally friendly (and hopefully kind) person. But I have been burned by over-applying the tendency abroad.

Dave Sherman

I have spent a lot of time in the Former Soviet Union and they don't smile a lot over there. It's not that they don't have anything to smile about; it's just, as you said, a cultural thing.

However, regardless of where I am or who I'm with, I believe a smile is one of the best ways to make people feel at ease with you, even in the FSU.


I like to smile. It makes me feel good and it usually infects others with a positive attitude. When I see people smiling at me, it makes me feel good. Leave it to the backwards french who don't use deodorant to turn a smile into a negative thing and consider it a grievance. I guess I wouldn't smile much either if my country smelled like an armpit. I guess it is just a cultural thing.

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