I’ve been in rehearsals since September for a production of The Little Mermaid. We now have three of our six performances completed, and this coming weekend right here in Lindsay, Ontario we will end the run. It’s been very fun – a lot of work mind; but a lot of fun to bring our various characters to the stage. I’m playing Grimsby who is Prince Eric’s guardian.
One of the constant notes we as a collective cast get is to smile when on stage. This I entirely understand. After all, the audience has paid for an evening’s entertainment, and when they look up and see 40 smiling faces beaming out at them, well… they can’t help but smile as well. And when you’re smiling, you’re having a good time enjoying not only the performance, but the whole experience. The thing is that smiling comes more naturally to some than others.
Not surprisingly, employer’s also want their staff wearing a smile as they go about their work; almost certainly if your job involves dealing with your customers, clients or the public on the front line. However, I’ve come to observe the same issue happens at work locations that happens in the world of musical theatre; there are those who wear it naturally and those who have to work hard at it.
If you’re one of those who have to work at having a smile, you’ve probably heard over and over to smile. In fact, you’re probably pretty sick and tired of having people your whole life tell you to turn that frown upside down, or how it wouldn’t hurt you to smile more often. Many of the people who don’t smile naturally are actually feeling quite good. They might even be happy in fact; it just doesn’t communicate to others that they are.
Smiles generally communicate warmth, happiness, enjoyment and friendliness. Unfortunately the absence of a smile can communicate discontent, stress, unhappiness; even come across as not wanting to be approached.
When we interact with others, we do so both verbally and non-verbally through our actions and our facial expressions play a huge part in this silent communication. Now take someone who is in fact overstressed, sullen, disinterested in their work or a tad annoyed even. That face their making can unfortunately be mirrored by some people who are not in fact feeling any of those things – they just don’t naturally smile. The message however, can be identical to the public who receives that smile.
So therein lies both the reason the employer wants a smiling staff and the reason they tend to be put off by those who don’t. They figure to themselves, if this person isn’t smiling here in the job interview, they certainly aren’t going to smile when on the floor dealing with the public. And to be honest, it’s not only on the floor in front of the customer that a smile is wanted. Even in a factory setting for example, far removed from the customers’ gaze, a smile can make a team of co-workers spend their time together more pleasantly. The lack of a smile can make interacting with your co-workers strained for some, and just unpleasant for others.
Years ago I believe somewhere I learned it takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. The message was, “So why work so hard?” Thinking back to musicals, there’s also a great song in Annie called, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Great advice that.
But I really feel for the people for whom this smile is something that takes a great deal of effort. And of course if your teeth aren’t in great shape you might actually wish you could smile more often but your low self-confidence in your smile might prevent you from flashing it more often. Fixing that smile might take a lot of money and may not be something you can afford to invest in. If that’s the case, I get that. By the way, if you’re on Social Assistance, you might want to inquire into dental care. If you have benefits where you work, checking with your provider might also be worth your time to find out what work you could have done. Self-confident people do smile when their teeth aren’t a concern.
However, if you understand and agree that a smile sends a positive message but yours still doesn’t come naturally, may I suggest that you consciously work at remembering to use it once or twice in any lengthy interaction. That brief smile might just have a bigger impact because it’s going to get noticed when you do use it.
Smiles attract smiles in others too. Look around today as you meet and interact with others. Do an experiment if you’d like and flash your smile at people. If you count the number of people who instinctively smile in return in response to your own, you’ll be surprised at how many you’ll get. It adds up. A smile is free to give and can lift someone’s spirits too. You never know when you give your smile to someone who is feeling down, just how much that simple gesture might mean. A smile can signal you’ve acknowledged they even exist.
We’re about to head into a season where many go about with a, “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holidays” in their everyday speech. Add a smile and you’ll fit right in!