Chapter 7.10 Smile


“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”
Phyliss Diller     Comedienne

Since when we smile we look more attractive, and since we all want to appear more beautiful, this Smile thing deserves a little more pondering.  Is there more to a smile than just a pleasantry?  What about those fake smiles of those girls on the floats?  Or how can you tell if you’re being “smile-fucked” by a business associate or a salesman? … you know, they smile at you while they pick your pocket, undermine your interests, or stab you in the back.

According to a few articles, phony smiling was studied back in the 1860’s’s by a French neurologist named Duchenne.  The crux of the study showed that with a fake smile (now called the Pan-Am smile for those stewardesses in the 60’s), only the muscles around your mouth are activated, to curl your lips.

With a real smile, a genuine smile (known now as a Duchenne smile), the muscles around the eyes become involved (which also creates those unappreciated “crow’s-feet” wrinkles).  With a real smile, the eyes brighten and the face brightens.  In fact I look to the eyes for genuineness.

“Real smiles last for one to five seconds, staying on the person’s face from the beginning to the peak to fading. Fake smiles can stay glued on a person’s face for 20 seconds.”

Interestingly, a smile not only affects the recipient but also the giver. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell recounts a study by psychologists Paul Ekman, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson that was centered on facial expressions and the associated emotions experienced.  It seems that not only does your facial expression reflect your emotions, it can also actually change your emotions.

By measuring the physiological reactions of their study volunteers, one group was asked to think about a stressful experience.  Another group was told to create on their faces the feelings generated by a stressful condition … anger, fear, and sadness.  Their bodily responses, which were being monitored by electrodes, indicated that the two groups’ responses were effectively the same.  The psychologists concluded that:

“Emotion can also start on the face.  The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings.  It is an equal partner in the emotional process.”
Blink Malcolm Gladwell

Further studies actually determined that it is possible to change how we feel, by changing our facial expressions.  It is hard to feel good if one wears a glum face and carries glum body language.  This glumness actually will make one feel …well, glum. It kind of places a barrier around you, like ‘stay away’.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Thich Nhat Hanh      Vietnamese Monk, Activist/Writer

So catch this … if you are feeling bad, a little down … change your face!  As you begin to try to smile at people, your mood can change. Your face tricks your body into thinking life is all right (there’s actually some built-in nerve action from the face to the brain).  If you stand up straight and walk tall (perhaps with a spring in your step) and you smile, your mood has a good chance of changing. I’ve tried this little five-second trick and I’m a convert.  Your smile can change your day … and the day of anyone that gets in your path.

“The self is not something ready made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.”
John Dewey (1859-1952)     Pragmatic Philosopher

Your face reflects your inner feelings, even your inner motives.  You can try to mask these your true feelings with a false facial expression for awhile.  But your face still gives off milli-second expressions, thin slices of your true inner feelings.  It is a part of why we sometimes can tell if a person is a good person or not … your subconscious picks up clues.

“I love friends, I want more friends. I love smiles. That is a fact. How to develop smiles? There are a variety of smiles. Some smiles are sarcastic. Some smiles are artificial-diplomatic smiles. These smiles do not produce satisfaction, but rather fear or suspicion. But a genuine smile gives us hope, freshness. If we want a genuine smile, then first we must produce the basis for a smile to come.”
Dalai Lama     Head of the Tibetan Buddhists

I guess the best path here is to be genuine and show it in your in your smiles. A smile is a barrier-breaker. You are saying to another person that you recognize them as a person, and that you are willing to give them a little positive energy. It doesn’t mean that you are going to engage them if they smile back … it just means that you have plenty of positive to share.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo F. Buscaglia (1924-1998)    American Advocate of the power of love

So you see, you can be a powerful source of positive energy without articulating the concepts. Smiling at others is a good beginner’s way to get on the positive energy train without having to put yourself out there with talk. I think you will find that more often than not, if you take the leap and offer other people a smile, they will smile back. And you will exchange some positive energy. And maybe just a little, their mood may improve … and it could help yours too.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
Mother Theresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)    Albanian born Indian Missionary


3 Responses to “Chapter 7.10 Smile”

  1. Pismo Painter Says:

    A genuine smile connotes optimism, another trait worth sharing. Can’t wait until next week’s column.

  2. Andrea376 Says:

    Smile a curve that sets everything straight and is often the best curve in a women 😉
    Smile is the expression of heart and every single person wants to have a sneak pick about your heart’s impression. I think smile, happiness, feelings, expression and peace; they all are inter-related and wonderfully mingled. Thanks for sharing this post, Glad reading!

    • papadlight Says:

      Thanks for your wonderful wordplay comment. I am a believer in the power of the positive, and certainly happiness and peace grace this topic. This post has been up for a few years, but I am working on some new stuff, a novel actually. I’ll keep you posted.

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