Think about the last time you played with a baby. When you put hands over your eyes, she did the same thing. “Mirroring” is a natural human behavior. Through imitation, our species is able to learn, communicate, and empathize. Our natural inclination for mimicry means that we often “catch” each other’s moods, which is why you might start to feel anxious when your husband starts stressing about seeing his mother; or why an easygoing, buoyant new team member can change the energy in an office.
The good news is that positive emotions are more contagious than negative ones. A Yale University School of Management study found that cheerfulness and warmth spread far more quickly throughout an office than irritability and depression. The best way to spread these good feelings? With a big toothy smile, the most contagious gesture of all.
I once read the results of a national study where employees were asked what they valued most in a leader. Overall reported results were (1) Expertise, (2) Warmth, (3) Sense of Humor. We need to demonstrate that we are advocates of a happy and friendly culture. One of our core values is “Have Fun & Be Healthy.” Showing we are having fun means smiling!
Below is a story of a employee realizing the “smile change” after splurging on some cosmetic dentistry:
“Ever since I was a kid, I never had the perfectly straight teeth I saw in magazines. So I grew up without smiling a whole lot. I just hated my teeth. Then I had laminates put in, and three months later had the gleaming pearly whites I’d always dreamt about. I now had a lot to smile about and started grinning all the time. When my husband took the garbage out, I broke into a broad grin. When my assistant handed me my morning Starbucks, I would flash her a dazzling smile of appreciation. Short of attending an elderly aunt’s funeral, I found every encounter an excuse to smile. The result: Everyone around me began to smile with me. Client meetings became more amicable, negotiations became nicer, coworkers felt more appreciated. And the best result? A year later, my colleague Robin went to the same dentist, and now I have the happiest business partner imaginable.”
When you smile at others, you literally “infect” them with happiness. Psychologist Fritz Stack discovered this when he had participants in a study hold a pencil with their teeth, which activated the smiling muscles. When they were smiling, participants found cartoons funnier than when they weren’t smiling. Translation: It’s a lot easier to make your client, your boss, or your husband more receptive to your ideas if you say it with a smile.
SMILE–it doesn’t hurt, and it impacts lives for the better!