Sometimes you get exposed to a new viewpoint from a unique venue that you weren’t expecting. To that point, I’m sitting on a panel in a university auditorium listening to one of my fellow panelists talk about the subject of our conference. I’ve already prepared my answer to the question asked by the group so now I’m looking up and out into the crowd sitting in front of me.
The people in the room are composed of a fair mix of age, ethnicity, and gender. Most of them seem to be paying attention, although a few are texting on their phones (I like to believe they’re taking notes or Tweeting our brilliance but they’re probably arranging their lunch dates or updating their marital status on Facebook to get ready for the weekend), and one or two are napping. What I’m most intrigued by, though, is not what they're doing but the expressions on their faces.
When a speaker makes a joke they laugh and when that speaker makes a poignant point they look concerned. Most of the time the people in the audience have neutral expressions – neither happy nor sad. But here’s what I’m finding so interesting: the sea of neutral expressions in front of me isn't really so neutral after all.
Most people do have classically defined neutral expressions – flat mouths, unfocused eyes, slack cheeks. Some folks look like they’re hard at work – furrowed brows and pursed lips. Only one young woman looks very happy – her eyes are wide and shining and the corners of her mouth are turned up. But most people look like they’re constipated or even worse – with scowling mouths, sucked in cheeks, and wrinkled foreheads.
Remember, these people aren’t mad. It’s just that they were unlucky enough to be born with an angry neutral face.
My friend Connie Dieken spent years as an anchor on television news shows and she knows all the tips and techniques of looking good in public. If you get the chance to see her speak, make sure you go and make sure you pay rapt attention. Connie has studied this issue extensively and created and trademarked what she calls “The Magic Move™.” Connie’s Magic Move only requires you to lift two little muscles but it can help you change your world. Connie’s technique? Put your index fingers at the corners of your lips and lift them up. Move your fingers away and you’re left with the right look. “These facial energy correctors are called the levator labii muscles,” Connie says. “They connect the corners of your mouth to your eyes. Activating these muscles creates a hint of a smile while simultaneously making your eyes sparkle. And that’s what's so magical. People experience this expression as warmth radiating from you, without perceiving you as disingenuous or goofy. By simply raising these two small muscles on the sides of your mouth, you can change the way the world looks at you.”
If you’re not lucky enough to be like the woman in our audience whose neutral face is a perpetual smile, then you have to be diligent enough to create the look yourself. And Connie’s simple tips can help. By the way, if you haven’t figured it out yet, you should read Connie’s book, Talk Less, Say More: Three Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen.
If you research the power of the smile a little bit, you’ll learn that besides improving your interpersonal relationships, engaging the small muscles around your mouth and eyes has the power to improve your outlook, reduce your stress level, and just make your day a little bit better. Dale Carnegie said:
“A smile is nature’s best antidote for discouragement. It brings rest to the weary, sunshine to those who are frowning, and hope to those who are hopeless and defeated. A smile is so valuable that it can’t be bought, begged, borrowed, or taken away against your will. You have to be willing to give a smile away before it can do anyone else any good. So if someone is too tired or grumpy to flash you a smile, let him have one of yours anyway. Nobody needs a smile as much as the person who has none to give.”
But what does a perpetual smile have to do with branding? I’m glad you asked. Besides helping to craft their own personal brands, happy, accessible people who look like they are engaged and interested in their customers build the relationships and perceptions that build businesses. Happy, smiling people improve the workplaces they operate in. And happy, smiling people create the positive energy that leads to creativity and productivity. Not bad for doing something that’s a pleasure to do, improves your outlook, and doesn’t cost you a thing.