Watson: It only takes a smile

Scott Watson

A smile can brighten your day, get you a job, earn you a new business client and lift the spirit of others. In a world of insatiable appetites for pleasure, we have become dependent on the material to bring us our primary means of satisfaction, meanwhile forgetting the smaller things in life. We too often take for granted the simple pleasures allotted us by human nature.

As the winter weather sets in, we shuffle off to class buried in our warmest clothes, thinking of little else but how miserable the freezing weather has made us. Pile on top of this tundra we call Iowa winters a nasty, nasal-congested cold and the ever-persisting stresses of balancing school with a social life, and you end up with nearly 30,000 students with a thought or two on their minds.

Our minds are certainly not on the well-being of our fellow sidewalk wanderers. We need to satisfy our souls by balancing our busy lives with simple, easy, meaningful gestures. An easy way to do just that — a smile.

Everyone likes to see a smile. It’s a natural reaction for us to develop positive feelings for someone once we see them smile. It’s a natural disarmer: Once the pearly whites come out, we subconsciously lower our personality defenses and return the gesture with warm sentiments of our own. To someone who saw countless frowns that day, dealt with impatient people or was told “No” too many times, a smile can serve as a beacon of light amidst the fog.

I have worked as a salesman of nearly every sort and can attest firsthand to the power of a smile. When talking with someone you have never met before, whether personal or for business, pulling out a smile communicates your goodwill and allows your new acquaintance to make a positive impression of you. Even on the phone, trying to convey a message of good intentions and friendliness can be accomplished with a smile, even though it is unseen. A smile can be heard in the tone and energy in your voice; remember that the next time you call Grandma — she will appreciate it. A smile, while effective audibly, is just as powerful alone, in its own right.

Whether you’re at a gas station checkout line, somebody’s office or passing someone on the sidewalk, anyone, anywhere, will have their day improved and will feel special by receiving a mere grin and a hello. A smile says, “I like you, I’m glad to see you, you have made me happy.” The best part about this smiling business is getting one after giving one. The satisfaction that comes from improving the day of another is a fantastic feeling. I would be lying if I said I don’t sometimes start conversations with people or say “Hello” to someone I haven’t talked to in a while largely to improve my own mood. It works, try it.

We are all self-satisfying individuals who wish to improve our own moods and egos. If we can do so by also improving the moods and egos of others, why not?

I recently read a book recommended to me by past employers and classmates alike entitled “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The book discusses various methodologies for making you more personable and marketable in your personal and professional lives, then goes on to explain how the two are intertwined. There is an entire section in this book about smiling and what a difference it can make in the professional world. Tales of careers made and marriages saved by simply flashing a smile more regularly are rampant.

The power of the smile is known by most, yet utilized by few. It would make an incredible difference in all our lives if we display our affection and gratitude more openly and regularly. I don’t mean to write such a cliche article carrying a public service message, but I feel strongly on this matter. We can all reap the benefits of increasing our friendliness to each other. Smiling breeds happiness. It costs nothing to give and enriches the lives of all.