Smiling sets off sterling circles – in hospitality too

  • 16 January 2015 | Roela Hattingh
Image courtesy of Nana B Agyei

Smiling is a superpower, says Ron Gutman in his TED Talk, titled The Hidden Power of Smiling.

It stimulates our brain’s reward mechanism in a way that chocolate can’t match: writing on Forbes' website, Gutman cites British research that found one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2 000 bars of chocolate, or receiving £16 000 in cash. Smiling seems to give us the same happiness that exercising induces – in terms of how our brain responds.

Smiling makes us feel good

In short: when we smile our brain gets the message that we feel happy, and 'feeling-happy' hormones (such as endorphins) are produced, which set in motion another smile. So, our brain feels good and tells us to smile, we smile and tell our brain it feels good … da-da – we have a sterling circle. This then reduces the level of stress-enhancing hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine, and might reduce overall blood pressure. This apparently has been proven by Charles Darwin’s facial feedback response theory.

Smiling makes us look good

When we smile we appear more engaging, charming and courteous, which communicates that we are competent. Service with a smile is not just a common adage; this has been proven through a study at Penn State University.

Smiling gets other people to smile

It is difficult to frown when someone smiles at you. When you smile at people, their involuntary reaction would be to mimic the smile and experience it first hand in order to figure out if it is fake or real. Have a look at the findings of a study at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Real smiles versus fake smiles

The difference between a genuine smile and a fake smile lies in the facial muscles. There are only two muscles that make us smile: the one that controls the corners of the mouth (zygomaticus major) and the one that encircles our eye socket (obicularis occuli).

The good news is that smiling can be practised. Simply stand in front of a mirror and smile at yourself. It might feel silly at first, but remember, we are born smiling – newborn babies even smile in their sleep, and kids smile up to 400 times a day. If this is hard to do, just think about an event that made you happy, and you will smile.

So, smile, and let the sun rise

When speaking face-to-face with clients (difficult or not), or before you make a call or answer the phone (there are also auditory smiling signals), just sonrisa ('smile' in Spanish) i.e. let the sun rise with the corners of your mouth and with your eyes and set off a sterling circle.

Here are two quotes to remind you of your superpower:

"Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown" – Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight" – Phyllis Diller