Sometimes you need to make an impression. You’d like to be remembered – and for the right reasons. Whether you’re a raging extrovert, or a blushing introvert, I can guarantee that you have one particularly potent asset at your disposal: Your smile. I have yet to meet one person whose countenance is not improved when they smile. So here’s some practical ideas to make the best of a social interaction that could lead to a richer relationship, whether personal or corporate..
1. Let your smile linger
I remember working with someone a few years back that had the habit giving you a bright smile, and the moment the interaction was over, the smile was immediately replaced by a frown, worry-lines, confusion, boredom… The smile was so fleeting, it became apparent to me very quickly that our exchanges were insincere and their apparent mirth was really quite fake. I became unsure of this person’s trustworthiness and I avoided dealing with them, for this simple reason.
People often watch your face for a split-second longer than you realize, and if you’ve just smiled at them, or laughed at a joke, what better way to portray sincerity and trust than to let your smile linger on your lips for just a little longer than necessary? It communicates a subtle message that you value the conversation you’ve just had and that you’d like to savour it just a few moments more.
2. Use your teeth
Maybe you’ve got crooked teeth. Or one of those big ‘gummy’ smiles that you were ripped off for throughout school. Maybe you just don’t like your smile.
Go to a mirror and smile with your mouth closed. Awkward? Look like you’ve just eaten something you shouldn’t have and you’re trying to hide it? Perhaps you look a bit psychopathic? Think about that next time you’re interacting with your boss, or that sales prospect you’re trying to win over…
Now, repeat exercise, go to a mirror and give yourself a big toothy smile (not a creepy grin) – this time, watch your eyes. What happens when you bare your teeth…? The smile lifts your eyes! This is especially valuable on those days where you’re just not feeling it, when you quite literally have to “grin and bear it” – giving a toothy smile is your best bet at having your smile ‘reach your eyes’, and that is the kind of smile that closes deals and gains trust. It says, “I’m not holding back, I’m for real, you can trust me.”
3. Make eye contact
Selfie-queens, get your smartphones out – you’re going to love this exercise! Take a pleasant smiley selfie, but look slightly down, or to the right or left. Then take another smiley selfie, and look straight into the camera. Compare them – which selfie is more engaging?
It’s not rocket science: the selfie in which you made eye contact is the winning smile. It’s the same in real life with real people – put your phone down, look away from your computer screen, take a breath, and turn to the person who is talking to you. Give them full attention and make eye contact, especially when you smile. Since the eyes are the window to the soul, making eye contact drives your smile right home to the heart, makes a personal connection, and will leave you more (positively) imprinted on their memory.
Now go and make the world a brighter place with your best winning smile, and I shall leave you with these examples on how not to do it!