By Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
A compelling smile is one of the most powerful of all communication tools.
General Bernard Montgomery said of Eisenhower’s smile: “He had only to smile at you, and there was nothing you would not do for him.” Winston Churchill reportedly said that Eisenhower’s smile was worth ten divisions.
Not just generals have recognized and used smiles to inspire or disarm. I once watched a celebrated French film director counter the attacks of a hostile interviewer with his smile, which he flashed throughout the entire session. The director was able to neutralize the interviewer’s thrust by a smile, then making a statement such as, “That’s absolutely ridiculous…that’s totally bogus…I don’t believe that at all, etc.” He was able to get away with blunt responses because he never dropped his friendly demeanor. If he had showed annoyance or anger, he would have seemed less formidable, out of control.
I have written elsewhere: “A sincere smile can help you move to the front of the line, gain privileged information, and get service after closing time….Only people who are extraordinarily talented or very rich get what they want without smiling, and a smile doesn’t hurt even them. The Chinese have a proverb, ‘A man without a smiling face must not open shop.’”
But your smile must not look phony. Nothing turns people off like an insincere, frozen, prolonged smile. If you have doubts about your smile, look in the mirror, or better, video yourself. You may be sincere but not look it.
“A sincere smile at the appropriate time can soften up the defenses, helping you get what you want with a minimum of effort and time expended. So recognize this resource and use it.” (Adapted from Time Tactics of Very Successful People.)