I read a book to my daughter tonight called “Smile a lot” as part of our usual bedtime routine. It kept repeating how much a smile could help the little boy as he struggled with a series of problems throughout his day. The book got me thinking about the post I wrote a couple weeks ago called “Super Deluxe” where I talked about having a good attitude and making the best out of everything rather than going through life looking at all the negative. In that post, I only spoke of the general personal choice of trying to maintain a positive outlook on your day. Today, I wanted to talk about one of the simplest ways to put that idea into action outwardly. Just smile.
The part I didn’t mention about our usual bedtime routine with the girls is that it has been an absolute nightmare for the past couple of weeks. A combination of “end of summer anxiety”, lack of sleep at night, and a mixed up schedule due to vacation and visitors has had my girls bouncing off the walls by evening and extremely crabby. We typically refer to it as them having “gone over to the dark side”. We started with the usual tactics of losing toys, privileges, and time outs. Unfortunately, it has also included more yelling than any of us appreciate. We have since adjusted our tactics back to a plan we seemed to have lost sight of…positive reinforcement. Focusing on what they are doing right, using calm voices when correcting them, and yes, making sure to smile, has helped the last couple of days. I don’t want to get too far off on a tangent here, but these experiences have definitely reinforced the idea that remaining positive and adding a smile, positively affect the outcome of my day.
I learned to really smile somewhere around the 6th or 7th grade. Obviously, I knew how to physically smile much younger than that. I even have a stack of photos showing that I was actually a pretty cute kid with a great smile. The smile I’m referring to was the one my mom taught me. Having attended a parochial school throughout my childhood, I spent quite a bit of time singing in some type of a choir at church. Singing, especially in front of other people, was never one of my favorite things to do. That dislike of public singing meant I sang while looking like a little grump. Mom finally got sick of reminding me to smile, so she said that next time she was going to pick her nose every time I sang to force me to smile. Now, I don’t ever recall her ever actually picking her nose, but I do distinctly remember her lifting a finger to her face as if she was about to pick her nose. I know I did a lot better job of smiling from there on out. (I also got nose picking, booger birthday cards from mom for the next 20 years.) In the end, I think it made for a more pleasant listening experience for the audience when I actually appeared happy to be singing for them.
As I got older, I realized that for some reason children seemed to like me. At least, they didn’t appear to have any trouble acknowledging my presence. The only reason this jumped out at me was because adults would be less likely to approach me and say hi than a child would. It was pointed out to me that my “normal face” was the neutral, 1000 yard stare that I picked up in the Marine Corps. I didn’t walk around looking like I was mad at the world, but I didn’t appear overly friendly either. I made a mental note to add a smile (at least every now and then) and see what happened. Well, it worked. I don’t even think about it anymore. Apparently, I must smile so much now that when I’m deep in thought (not smiling) people will actually ask me what’s wrong.
Smiling is a definite must when it comes to my career in face-to-face customer service. Even on the phone you can usually tell if someone is smiling. That smile can change the direction a conversation goes and/or how people act. The simple little gesture of a smile will go a long way in maintaining your positive outlook in life. It’s also the first baby step towards laughing at problems when your day just isn’t going right. Enjoy your day and remember to smile. Until next time…