Smiling when we communicate. Seems simple, doesn’t it? I used to think so! Yet our ‘smile styles’ send signals when communicating.
And while I don’t want to over-complicate things, there are definitely some signals that you want to be aware of, if you’re not already. These can apply whether you’re communicating to a group, or 1:1.
We don’t just smile to convey happiness or warmth of course…we do polite, nervous, embarrassed, ingratiating or submissive smiles too (and more).
Some consequences and pitfalls of our different ‘smile styles’:
Smiling too little or not at all.
We may forget to smile when it would be a very good idea to do so. This can be due to:
*A goal-focused mindset. We can lose empathy in this state and become “all business” in our demeanour.
*Nerves. When anxious, our faces can go unintentionally blank – and we may not even know it.
*Distraction. When not fully present and our minds are elsewhere, we can show up physically without remembering that the people we’re communicating with need to feel our “presence” – not absence.
*Forgetting that we might be a threat to our audience. If you’re a stranger and they haven’t met you before, you need to show warmth for them to feel safe around you.
And if you’re higher in hierarchy or power to them, you’re also quite probably a threat. It’s your job to create safety in these scenarios.
Now let’s flip it:
Smiling too much. You may overdo it. Examples of why this happens:
*Discomfort. Perhaps you feel on the outside of a tribe or group and hope to ingratiate yourself with them, or the person you’re speaking to. To belong.
*Uncertainty. You don’t know the content well enough, or your brain has other reasons to feel on shaky ground.
*Nerves. Yes, this was also in the list above (low/no smiling). The opposite can also happen, and you overdo the smiles, joking around or using self-deprecating humour.
A little is fine, but self-deprecation needs careful handling: we don’t want to appear incompetent!
So there you have it: a brief foray into some of the different reasons why you may be smiling too little or too much.
Smiling is such an incredible universal symbol – an authentic smile at the right time is powerful. It warms the person or group you’re speaking to – and it warms you too.
So perhaps it’s worth checking in to make sure you’re sending the ‘smile style’ signals you want your audience to receive.
Wishing you great speaking experiences!