A true smile of happiness, gladness, or joy shows up different than a fake forced smile. We may show a polite grin or "camera smile" at will (Say, "Cheese!"). The heartfelt, real smile is hard to produce on demand. A true smile requires true emotion. Here is what happens in a true smile:
In the polite or "false" smile, the lip corners stretch sideward with little upward curl, and there are no visible "crow's-feet" at the corners of the eyes. Thus, the real smile (with both the mouth and eye areas activated) is a more accurate reflection of the mood.
About the Smile Origin as Body Language
The smiling face can be traced back to our ancestors, the primates, who still display a wide variety of facial expressions. The grimace or fear grin and the submissive grin are used to show "I am afraid." These expressions evolved into the human smile that now suggests "I am harmless, friendly and happy to be with you." The smile is used all over the world to indicate pleasure and happiness. Even people who were born blind and have never seen a smile on others display a smile when they are happy and pleased.
A consciously formed smile produced only a weak feeling of happiness in laboratory-controlled experiments, but the opposite was produced by a frown. Even a forced frown produced a feeling of sadness. It is also evident that your smile will bring a smile to those you meet. Therefore, the smile is used to affect how others feel. When someone is sad, we often give them a big smile and tell them, "Don't cry, everything is going to be alright." And to some degree, it helps!
A real smile says, "I like you. I am happy to see you." A smile is a very powerful tool for flirting. A woman's smile, with eye contact, is seen by a man as an immediate invitation for much more closeness. That is a signal programmed into his old brain limbic system, and he can't ignore it. Whether he wants to or not, his brain will change his body chemicals to start getting ready for action.
About the Flirting Power of a Smile
When a woman sends a warm and inviting smile to a male stranger, she may see a confused look on his face or, at least, a strained return smile. That is because he must instantly deal with two messages: one from his body and one from his conscious mind. And the messages are most likely opposite.
His conscious mind has learned to be polite and observe the rules taught in his family and culture about dealing with strangers and especially women. At the same time, his body starts revving up for action as the old brain instantly kick-starts it with a flood of hormones.
Lab research reveals that many chemical and physical changes take place in a man's body when a woman stranger smiles at him. The same response happens even when he looks at a picture of a woman smiling!
It appears that healthy young men's bodies are designed to go into action when seeing a woman smiling at him. Our smile remains from our ancient ancestors as the most obvious body language cue for indicating we are safe to approach. Additionally, men are DNA programmed from their ancient ancestors to not miss a chance for sex. That is what worked best for men to keep the species from going extinct in those hard times. Another indication of men's readiness for sex is the fact that healthy young men make 200 million to 300 million sperm a day!
In the late 1990s, Safeway, the second largest supermarket chain in the U.S., instructed its store employees to smile and greet customers with direct eye contact. In 1998, 12 female employees filed grievances over the chain's smile-and-eye-contact policy. What the smile with eye contact was bringing to them from male customers were numerous unwanted requests for dates!
The main point here is that a real smile is a powerful tool for enhancing relationships of all types. It is body language that says, "I like you, and I am happy to see you." These are words everyone likes to hear. Even if you are not speaking those words, your smile will say them for you, and that will make the other person especially happy to be with you.
Smiling Can Extend Your Life
Researcher Ernest L. Abel (Wayne State University, Michigan, USA) and colleagues have found that smiling intensity is linked to life longevity.
The researchers analyzed photographs of 230 major league baseball players in the 1952 season. Each player's smiles in numerous photos were categorized for intensity. Then the life length of the 184 players who had already died was correlated with the level of their smile. The people with true and more genuine smiles tended to live the longest. Seventy percent of them lived to age 80 or more. Only fifty percent of the non-smilers survived to age 80.
The way you produce your smile also sends a message. A too fast smile and quick drop back to normal says you are not very sincere. But to send a message with your smile that you are very pleased and honored to see a person is possible with the correct timing. Here is how to give an unforgettable smile to a friend.
The main point is to go slow and let your smile grow with sincerity.
© Copyright 2005, revised 2009, 2015 by Lawrence Rodrigues, M.S., Director: EastWest Institute for Self-Understanding.
All rights reserved worldwide.