By Melodie Veldhuizen
Have you ever noticed how a friendly smile from your side can lighten up an apparently grumpy or unfriendly person’s face? Or have you experienced how your gloomy mood improves when someone shares a friendly smile with you? A smile is indeed catching – one easily becomes two. World Smile Day will be celebrated on Friday, 2 October, but there is no reason why you cannot or should not use it every day. Anthony Vespugio said, “Any road you travel through life is largely improved when you remember to pack a smile in your luggage and remember to take it out often during your journey.”
Unfortunately, during the last few months the Coronavirus has robbed people worldwide of their smile due to the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves. The masks we have to wear unfortunately also hide the smiles of this who still have reason to do so or who are not allowing circumstances to bring them down. It is expected that masks will remain part of our public apparel for a long time to come. In a society filled with masked humans, life can feel even more depressing. It is precisely during this time that you should be able to show everyone crossing your path daily (the supermarket and shop personnel, post office clerk, cashier, petrol pump attendant, your colleagues, or your child’s teacher) that you are friendly and approachable. How can you help to make the world a friendlier place from behind your mask? There are ways to unmask your smile.
Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne, a French neurologist, distinguishes two types of smiles. The first is the social smile where you smile only with your lips. This usually is the smile covered by a mask. Its importance must however not be underestimated, as it plays an important role in our daily communication with others. The second type is the Duchenne smile that lights up your face, lifts your cheeks and lets your eyes glow. A mask will not easily hide this smile.
Paul Ekman, a psychologist who studies facial expressions, says that a smile lets the eyes narrow. Janine Driver, an expert on body language and founder and president of the Institute for Body Language in Washington, D.C., says a lot of our emotion is revealed by our eyes and brows. One can also see if someone is happy or friendly from the wrinkles in the corners of the eyes. According to Driver, you should also make a concerted effort to ensure your smile reaches your eyes and that you make eye contact with the person you are talking to. This is why you should preferably also remove your sunglasses when talking to someone.
If you are unsure if people experience your friendliness or affability through facial expressions, make use of body language and other non-verbal clues:
In normal situations a tap on the shoulder or a warm hug could take the place of a friendly smile. Unfortunately, Covid-19 regulations require the maintenance of social distancing over and above the wearing of masks.
Don’t touch your throat or stand or sit with folded arms. This creates the impression of not being approachable or a lack of feeling.
If you tip your head slightly to the left or right, it shows that you care, are listening attentively and are friendly.
Demonstrate friendliness by laughing out loud.
What about a friendly wink, a friendly wave of the hand or a nod?
And, last but definitely not least – use verbal communication with sincere, friendly words. Smile while you speak. Ursula Hess, a psychologist attached to the Humboldt University in Berlin, states that one can ‘hear’ when someone is smiling, as it changes the shape of the mouth, which causes the voice to come across clearer.
If you really try to unmask your smile in one of these ways, there will be no reason for anyone to experience you as unfriendly.
Days of the Year. https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/smile-day/
The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/style/face-mask-emotion-coronavirus.html