Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for August 2012

The Value of a Smile

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sharing the joy.

Many labels have been applied to this year’s Summer Olympics, but the one which appeals to me the most has been “The Friendly Games”. Aside from all the phenomenal sporting achievements, it has been wonderful to soak up the genuine feel-good atmosphere of the games. The power source for this has been the widespread use of that universal indicator of happiness and friendship: the smile.

“The smile is the shortest distance between people.”

-Victor Borge

Genuine smiles can warm hearts, spread peace and light up cloudy days. Smiles do so much more than express happiness. A smile transmits clear messages about a person’s approachability, sincerity, trustworthiness, attractiveness and sociability.

Of course not all smiles are genuine, but fake smiles usually only involve the mouth, whereas a true smile, what psychologists call a Duchenne smile, involves the eyes also. For a long time this was considered to be the mark of a real smile but it is now known that even Duchenne smile can be feigned.

A truer marker might be the speed at which a smile develops. The fake smile (‘Botox smile’, ‘Pan Am smile’) can be switched on in an instant. A genuine smile, however, will spread across the face more naturally, appearing to draw in its recipients. Slow onset smiles are seen as more authentic, trustworthy and even more seductive.

If we use our smiles in the work or business context, does that mean that they will always be of the false (non-Duchenne) variety? Of course not. If we truly believe in what we are doing, if we are acting with honesty and integrity, if we genuinely love our interactions with other people in all their variety, then those smiles will be as warm and true as any.

Gold-medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis.

The so-called “Friendly Games” were truly “The Smiling Games,” with athletes, spectators, officials and the amazing volunteers all sporting winning smiles. They pulled together a careworn nation, maybe even a tired world, in celebration of human endeavours and achievements.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; Slobber and they put you outdoors.”

– Snoopy

Much has been said about the legacy of these games. There can be no greater legacy than the memory of all those immense smiles and their continued use at every available opportunity.