The Magic of a Smile

The simple smile may be more important than you think.

There is a universal form of communication. It is used in every culture, by all human beings. It connects strangers,smile comforts all ages and alters relationships. It’s the simple smile.

To be sure, a smile is simple, but it can convey several messages. A smile may be a gesture of approval, acknowledgment, acceptance or affection. When a stranger sends us a genuine smile, we often feel a connection, even though we will likely never see them again. It is just a kind gesture from one human being to another.

When we are performing some task, while others are watching, a smile from members of the audience can be an act of encouragement or appreciation of our work. I know that I really appreciate smiles when I am presenting a workshop or teaching a class. Those smiles let me know that I am on track and connecting.

A smile from a friend or loved one serves to increase the bond of the relationship or express affection. Like physical touch, smiles strengthen our feelings of connection and love. As humans, we are born with the need to be connected with others. We aren’t really healthy without it.

A smile in the first stages of a romance can be the trigger for the relationship to move forward. It lets the other person know that you are interested in them or attracted to them.

Believe it or not, smiles have been the subject of research. We know that there are several types of smiles and that they convey different messages.

The most positive type of smile is the Duchenne smile. The corners of the mouth are raised and the cheeks rise, making little crow’s feet around the eyes. This is considered by many to be the most genuine smile, as it is fairly difficult to fake. This is also called the full-blown smile or the full-face smile. Some research has suggested that people who display this smile tend to live longer.

Sometimes a smile can even be negative. A forced or “stiff” smile can suggest disdain or disapproval. You could call it a sarcastic smile. Such a smile can suggest that the person disapproves, but is trying to hide it.

The tight-lipped smile, where teeth are not shown, often suggests that the person is keeping some secret, and not telling you everything. It is sometimes seen in politicians, when asked for information they don’t want to share. It can also be used by a female showing disinterest in a flirting male.

Of course, there are exceptions to all these interpretations, and we all have an intuitive sense of facial expressions. But we all know that giving and receiving a smile is usually a good thing. It makes us feel good. That said, smile at someone today. You may send just the message they needed.


Comments: Share a time when a smile has meant a lot to you, and how it helped you.

The Power of Story

The stories you hear and those you tell yourself can change you more than you think.

There is a story of two researchers who tried to create a computer that would think like a human brain. They workedstory_telling for years on this project. The human brain is amazingly powerful and complex, so they ended up with several rooms full of computer components as they attempted to match the capacity of one human brain.

The day came for them to test out their project. They typed in a question. The computer hummed for a moment, and they knew they had gotten it right when the computer responded, “You know, that reminds me of a story.”

Humans think in stories. We always have. Through the ages, people have used storytelling to convey culture, history, morals and aspirations.  In today’s world, stories are shared by movies, television programs, you tube videos, and sometimes face-to-face conversations. Even commercials utilize the power of storytelling to sell their wares.

We also tell stories in our heads. We formulate a story of our life; who we are, what we are supposed to do, how the world will treat us and what our future holds. We experience someone else’s behaviors and tell ourselves a story about why they did what they did and what they were feeling at the time. We tend to believe the stories in our heads without question.

We also respond to stories. We are moved by stories. Stories can sometimes change our minds and our hearts. Stories can serve to drive us to greatness or destruction.

People have long said that humans are hardwired for stories, but we are just now seeing clear scientific evidence for why this is true. Dr. Paul Zak, a neuroscientist, has made great strides in illuminating the brain chemistry stimulated by hearing stories. A decade ago, his lab discovered that a brain chemical called Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown kindness, and that this same chemical then motivates us to be more cooperative with others. Recently, they  found that listening to motivational, inspirational or character driven stories stimulates the brain’s release of Oxytocin, and that those with higher Oxytocin production were more likely to donate, or give time, to others. Finally, they were able to locate the areas of the brain that were most changed by stories.

So, choose your stories carefully. Choose the stories you listen to or watch via television or movies. They may change you more than you imagine. Also, choose the stories in your head carefully. The stories you tell yourself about your life, your relationships and your future may change you even more.