SMILE QUICK? OR SMILE SPECIAL?
In 1936, one of Dale Camegie’s six musts in How to Win Friends and Influence People was SMILE! His edict has been echoed each decade by practically every communications guru who ever put pen to paper or mouth to microphone. However, at the turn of the millennium, it’s high time we re-examine the role of the smile in high-level human relations. When you dig deeper into Dale’s dictum, you’ll find a 1936 quick smile doesn’t always work. Especially nowadays.
The old-fashioned instant grin carries no weight with today’s sophisticated crowd. Look at world leaders, negotiators, and corporate giants. Not a smiling sycophant among them. Key Players in all walks of life enrich their smile so, when it does erupt it has more potency and the world smiles with them.
Researchers have catalogued dozens of different types of smiles. They range from the tight rubber band of a trapped liar to the soft squishy smile of a tickled infant There are warm smiles and cold smiles. There are real smiles and fake smiles. (You’ve seen plenty of those plastered on the faces of friends who say they’re ‘delighted you decided to drop by,’ and presidential candidates visiting your city who say they’re ‘thrilled to be in, uh uh …’) Big Winners know their smile is one of their most powerful weapons, so they’ve fine-tuned it for maximum impact
HOW TO FINE-TUNE YOUR SMILE
I have an old college friend named Missy who, just last year, took over her family business, a company supplying corrugated boxes to manufacturers. One day she called saying she was coming to New York to court new clients and she invited me to dinner with several of her prospects. I was looking forward to once again seeing my friend’s quicksilver smile and hearing her contagious laugh. Missy was an incurable giggler, and that was part of her charm.
When her Dad passed away last year, she told me she was taking over the business. I thought Missy’s personality was a little bubbly to be a CEO in a tough business. But, hey, what do I know about the corrugated box biz?
She, I, and three of her potential clients met in the cocktail lounge of a midtown restaurant and, as we led them into the dining room, Missy whispered in my ear, ‘Please call me Melissa tonight’
‘Of course,’ I winked back, ‘not many company presidents are called Missy!’ Soon after the maitre d’ seated us, I began noticing Melissa was a very different woman from the giggling girl I’d known in college. She was just as charming. She smiled as much as ever. Yet something was different I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Although she was still had the distinct impression everything Melissa said was more insightful and sincere. She was responding with genuine warmth to her prospective clients, and I could tell they liked her, too. I was thrilled because my friend was scoring a knockout that night By the end of the evening, Melissa had three big new clients.
Afterward, alone with her in the cab, I said, ‘Missy, you’ve really come a long way since you took over the company. Your whole personality has developed, well, a really cool, sharp corporate edge.’ uh, only one thing has changed,’ she said. ‘What’s that?’ ‘My smile,’ she said. ‘Your what?’ I asked incredulously. ‘My smile,’ she repeated as though I hadn’t heard her.
‘You see,’ she said, with a distant look coming into her eyes, ‘when Dad got sick and knew in a few years I’d have to take over the business, he sat me down and had a life-changing conversation with me. I’ll never forget his words. Dad said, “Missy, Honey, remember that old song, ‘I Loves Ya, Honey, But Yer Feet’s Too Big?'” Well, if you’re going to make it big in the box business, let me say, “I loves ya, Honey, but your smile’s too quick.”
‘He then brought out a yellowed newspaper article quoting a study he’d been saving to show me when the time was right It concerned women in business. The study showed women who were slower to smile in corporate life were perceived as more credible.’
As Missy talked, I began to think about women like Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Madeleine Albright and other powerful women of their ilk. True, they were not known for their quick smiles.
Missy continued, ‘The study went on to say a big, warm smile is an asset But only when it comes a little slower, because then it has more credibility.’ From that moment on, Missy explained, she gave clients and business associates her big smile. However, she trained her lips to erupt more slowly. Thus her smile appeared more sincere and personalized for the recipient.
That was it! Missy’s slower smile gave her personality a richer, deeper, more sincere cachet. Though the delay was less than a second, the recipients of her beautiful big smile felt it was special, and just for them.
I decided to do more research on the smile. When you’re in the market for shoes, you begin to look at everyone’s feet When you decide to change your hairstyle, you look at everyone’s haircut Well, for several months, I became a steady smile watcher. I watched smiles on the street I watched smiles on TV. I watched the smiles of politicians, the clergy, corporate giants, and world leaders. My findings? Amidst the sea of flashing teeth and parting lips, I discovered the people perceived to have the most credibility and integrity were just ever so slower to smile. Then, when they did, their smiles seemed to seep into every of their faces and envelop them like a slow flood. Thus I call the following technique The Flooding Smile.
Technique 1: The flooding Smile
Don’t flash an immediate smile when you greet someone, as though anyone who walked into your line of sight would be the beneficiary. Instead, look at the other person’s face for a second. Pause. Soak in their persona. Then let a big, warm, responsive smile flood over your face and overflow into your eyes. It will engulf the recipient like a warm wave. The split-second delay convinces people your flooding smile is genuine and only for them.
Let us now travel but a few inches north to two of the most powerful communications tools you possess, your eyes.