Rise Performance Group

The Hidden Power of a Smile

By Aoife Goreleadershipy

“The minute you walked in the joint, I could see you were a man of distinction, a real big spender.”
Shirley Bassey.

The lyrics of that infamous song resonate with many of us as most of us have had this type of experience at some point in our lives. Someone walks into a room, and the entire room responds. Everyone’s attention is drawn to the newcomer, for reasons that no one can pinpoint.

Many people have this immediate impact and radiate a charismatic appeal to others, not just celebrities or highly attractive people. There is just something about these people that captures the attention of all around them. If this ‘thing’ can be identified, it can be harnessed. Physical attractiveness and sharp dressing helps, of course, but those are fleeting. Someone who is charismatic holds your attention for much longer. If you subtract looks, dress, and conversation, the only thing left is body language.

University of California psychology professor Howard Friedman has conducted extensive research on the role that body language and nonverbal cues play in our perception of charisma. According to Friedman’s research, charismatic people tend to smile more than the average person, with a distinct crinkling around the eyes that demonstrates the genuine nature of the smile. They tend to use a lot of hand gestures, and touch people more when talking to them. There are many nonverbal cues that can be examined when focusing on body language, but let’s look at a particularly impactful one today, your face. Our faces are directly wired into the emotional center of the brain, and our facial expressions tell those around us a lot more than we want to give away at times. Smiling is the universal human indicator of acceptance, regardless of language, sex, race, or nationality.

Even in remote tribes where there has been no exposure to the world at large, researchers inevitably find that the smile is the most positive facial expression a human being can display. We are so busy keeping up with workplace trends, using apps to develop ourselves professionally, and just staying ahead of the curve that we forget to capitalize on something that can be highly impactful and doesn’t cost a thing: smiling!

Facial expressions are wired to the left frontal cortex of the brain – the area in which happiness is registered. When you adopt a positive, smiling expression, the feedback from your face to your cortex triggers the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine into your brain. These are ‘feel-good’ chemicals that have the effect of improving your mood.  There is an enormous amount of research outlining the positive effects of smiling, including:

  • Raising your mood and making you most positive
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Reducing your blood pressure
  • Increasing your self-confidence

Harnessing the charismatic impact of smiling can significantly impact your professional and personal life. In your day-to-day life, when you meet someone new, hold off on sharing your smile until you’ve been given his or her name. Then, as you shake that person’s hand, look into his or her eyes and deliver your best big smile. The impact of holding your smile for this moment is enormous. It looks like that person’s name and the experience of meeting him or her is the most positive experience you’ve had all day. You’ve won a friend.

All workplaces have a different environment and climate directly affected by the people that inhabit it. Charismatic people choose to create an emotional climate that lifts the mood of their colleagues. Results of research in Leadership Charisma indicate that leaders’ emotional expressions play an important role in the formation of followers’ perceptions of leader effectiveness, attraction to leaders, and follower mood. The results also suggest that charismatic leadership is linked to organizational success, at least in part, because charismatic leaders enable their followers to experience positive emotions. Charismatic people create extraordinary loyalty among their colleagues, because consciously or unconsciously, their colleagues know that they can always depend on them for the transfusion of positivity and energy.

At the start of every day, make a point of greeting your co-workers with a personal smile, greeting and word of encouragement. Raise the mood in your workplace, one smile at a time, and look out for a more positive type of “mob mentality.”

“Smiling is contagious, you catch it like the flu, when someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.” (Anon)

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