Imagine Julia Roberts or George Clooney never smiling. Would they convey the same charm and appeal? Or perhaps you favor the top smiles of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, or Elizabeth Banks? Imagine any of these stars without their megawatt smiles–forever. Not even a lip curl. Hard to imagine isn’t it? How about comedy? Would Louis C.K. or Tina Fey or Kevin Hart or Ellen Degeneres be as funny and all together likable if they never smiled? Quite frankly, no. We want and need the smiles. Take anyone in your life you adore, delete their smile from your memory and you’d be at a great loss with far fewer cherished moments. Our smiles not only convey happiness, joy and delight, they also impart acceptance, approval and understanding. With the flash of a smile we can elicit charm, humor or warmth and create attraction, affinity and connection. Of course, we could verbalize any of these affectations without expression, but they would be far less believable. Even strangers connect with a smile. The power of a smile is immediate, direct and universal.
Charles Darwin was the first scientist to observe the universal power of a smile across cultures. Other non-verbal gestures vary across cultures but manifestations of the smile are universal, even among the blind. It’s remarkable that we begin smiling as early as five weeks of age. In fact, infants quickly learn that although a cry demands attention, it is their smile creates connection and retains attention. As adults, we can command attention in many ways, but studies show that the smile is so powerful, it ranks number two in physical attraction among both sexes (following the eyes).
A confident, authentic smile can be a “super power” in the dating world. Used effectively, this type of smile draws people in and maintains their attention and even increases the likelihood of future connection. How is this possible? Well, it’s pretty simple really. Humans are motivated by two things: 1) pain avoidance, and 2) pleasure. The smile implies an absence of pain and the presence of pleasure–a double win. A smile even reduces stress and anxiety. When we see someone smile at us, we reflexively return the smile (however not always with the same intensity). This creates a sneaky subconscious pretext of positivity. When we smile (originally or reactively) we signal our brain that we are having a positive experience. Smiling creates a positive feedback loop to our brain that induces a degree of pleasure, much like exercise creates endorphins, and reduces our stress. All pretty advantageous effects to posses when meeting someone, asking them out, or while getting to know them. Keep in mind though, we are all experts at detecting the difference between real and fake smiles. Real smiles include the eyes and are consistent with the stimulus of the moment. Smile researcher Dr. Paula Niedenthal offers three ways we validate an authentic smile:
- Our brain seamlessly calculates the geometry of a person’s face to a standard authentic smile
- We consider the situation and judge whether a smile is naturally expected
- We often automatically mimic the smile, to determine whether the smile is fake or real.
So infectious is the smile, that we gravitate to those with authentic smiles to gain more positive effect. The average person smiles approximately 20 times a day. Happy people smile more than double that amount. So powerful is the authentic smile that scientist have discovered that people who naturally smile more live on average seven years longer, have happier relationships and marriages and are more successful–a pretty powerful correlation. And to top it off, people who smile more reduce stress hormones which support a healthier outlook as well as a healthy physique. All in all that is a HUGE win.
“But I don’t like my smile,” you say? Maybe you think your smile is crooked or you don’t like your teeth or gums? Not to worry! Studies have shown a smile is universally positive whether “perfect” or not. A smile can be open-mouthed, closed-mouth, half or whole. But the most authentic smile is similar to how you smile when you experience joy. Like all things in life, practice makes perfect. So if you experience a bit of uncertainty, simply practice your smile in a mirror until you become more comfortable. Experiment with your smile in public to see the reactions of others. We know you will find that a well placed, authentic smile will not only be returned by the other’s smile, it will brighten your day and theirs. If you fear smiling in photos (we can all be self-critical at times), take numerous selfies with different smiles to see which fits the look you desire, then practice that smile until it is natural and effortless. You are now ready for any situation.
Some men feel that smiling conveys weakness, however this is not true. Smiling is not to be confused with validation seeking or acquiescence. A smile can convey confidence, certainty, good will and success. Just keep in mind that timing and authenticity is what counts. Your smile should be congruent with your thoughts and feelings, not opposed to them or used to elicit an effect (or you may be seen as disingenuous or manipulative).
Researchers have noted that in some cultures, it is more acceptable for women to smile than men. While culturally valid, this is unfortunate for both the male and any potential recipient of his smile. Given the plethora of smiles to choose from, we feel certain a you can work more smiles into your repertoire. Think of smiles as a wardrobe of emotion. There’s the Jon Hamm smile from MadMen, controlled, but confident. There’s the authoritative, yet likable smile of Barack Obama. Or perhaps the winning, confident smile of Sir Richard Branson. On the dating and relationship front, you have the sexy Chris Hemsworth smile or the flirtatious Matthew McConaughey smile, plus many more. All of these are effective smiles for different settings and purposes, yet all are spectacular smiles nonetheless. When dating, keep in mind that a smile draws people in, builds a connection and offers a reward. Use it wisely.
For all of our women readers, your smile is very attractive to men. Men in general love a happy, smiling woman. And they like to easily please their woman. You smile conveys your happiness and pleasure. In fact, the greatest qualities men seek in a women for a long-term relationship or marriage is a happy, kind, easy-going woman. That is not to say men shy away from any adversity you may face, in fact most often they rise to the occasion and become the hero. It’s also not to say they do not deeply value other virtues, as well as require them (such as honesty and loyalty). It is instead a desire to find a woman who owns her own happiness and does not look to her man to be her barometer of happiness or to be responsible for her happiness. Men want to simply share in your happiness and experience your smiles and emotions freely in a positive way. Men, in general, want a woman who values herself and is happy with herself in a deep, lasting, non-superficial way. So keep sharing those natural, authentic, beautiful smiles and you will both feel happier.
We would love to hear your thoughts on smiling and how you experience a well-placed smile–how it makes you feel and the impression it leaves with you. Share your favorite smiles with our readers in our comments section below.
[Above photo credit: Julia Roberts, © Carrienelson1 | Dreamstime.com]