Anytime I go anywhere I smile for a stranger when I pass them, whether it’s in a store or on a trail. I started this because gosh we don’t know the other persons story and if they are having a tough day, then a smile can help even if just a little.
In 1993, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen released the mega-hit Chicken Soup for The Soul. This book struck a nerve with a world that was hurting and needed to connect with stories that created hope for those who felt hopeless and nurtured people who were feeling lost and abandoned.
The book was a compilation of true and true-ish stories that inspired readers through accounts of people making a difference when it mattered most. One story was titled “A Simple Gesture”, penned by John W. Schlatter. In his story, he describes Bill and Mark. Bill was a nerdy guy who was often bullied. Mark encountered Bill on a day when Bill was planning to kill himself. Mark smiled at Bill, and that gesture helped Bill feel the compassion and sense of being seen that he needed in order to stop his plan and consider an alternative to suicide. All because of a smile.
When we encounter people for the first time, we have no idea what is going on in their lives – just as they have no idea what is going on in ours. One of the nicest things we can do for them is to simply smile at them. The act of smiling and giving out that social energy releases endorphins in our body designed to make us feel good. The experience of receiving a smile can change our mood, our perspectives, and our self-image.
What does a simple smile convey?
I see you.
You are accepted.
I like you.
You matter to me.
Smiling is one of the fundamental ways we bond as human beings. From birth, we use smiling as a way to connect with our babies. We also wait with anticipation to see that first real smile back, an indication we are making an impact on our children’s learning. To know that they see us, and they like what they see.
Try this exercise for a day, and see if you notice the impact it has on you and those around you.
Choose a day when you are going to be in your community, running errands or crossing paths with multiple people. Make a point to look each person you see in the eye and smile. Don’t worry if they have their head down, just look at them and smile. Chances are, they will feel your energy and look up.
When you see a clerk in a store, smile at them. Wait for the smile back, and greet them pleasantly. For all you know, the person before you could have zapped their energy and left them feeling empty. Your attention and a pleasant smile can refuel and recharge them.
Notice how you feel when someone responds to your smile with one of their own. Notice how it feels when they don’t. Chances are, once you feel the impact your smile has on others, it will become a regular part of your non-verbal communication skill set.