The other day I was driving my car, with my two sons along for the ride. Traffic was a mess and we were waiting to make the left hand turn onto our street when traffic opened up, but then before I could squeeze through the break a woman in a mini van lurched forward, but was unable to go any further, she was just able to go far enough to completely block me in. She realized what she had done and looked over a little sheepishly and smiled. I smiled (while quietly whispering something not so smiley under my breath). My son said, “Great, dueling restaurant-smiles.”
Now, I’ll have to explain what a restaurant smile is. A restaurant smile (a term coined by my son), is the smile one makes at the waiter (okay, it’s the smile I make at the waiter) when the item ordered is unsatisfactory in some way. It is the I’m-such-a-nice-person-that-even-though-my-order-is-completely-screwed-up-I-still-just-can’t-stop-smiling smile. And my sons ALWAYS call me on it. I realized the other day that they call me on it because they don’t like it, and they don’t like it because it is fake.
Yes, I know the maxim about catching more flys with honey than with vinegar, and I really do think that a smile is much more pleasant than a scowl.
Sometimes a smile is just not congruent with how we feel, and that incongruent smile makes our story, or request, or whatever it is we are attempting to communicate confusing and unclear. It also disempowers us.
It just isn’t authentic to be smiling on the outside and seething with anger, or sinking with disappointment, on the inside.
Smiles are nice. I’m not advocating being mean, I’m just advocating being authentic. Being real.
What does it mean to really be authentic? It is a question I have pondered for the better part of the last ten years, as I really put forth an effort to find my authentic self, and to help my clients and readers find authenticity in their lives also.
Authenticity begins when we are honest with ourselves and others about who we are, what we think, and what we feel. This in no means suggests that we behave inappropriately (ex. eye rolls and name calling are inappropriate), it only suggests that we begin to let our outward expressions be congruent with our inward thoughts and feelings.
So, if you are going to smile, smile like you mean it! The same goes with if you’re disappointed, or sad, or confused; pick a corresponding facial expression and you will go a lot further in communicating how you feel. At which point it will be a whole lot easier to work things through, so that you can smile again. This time you will be smiling like you mean it.
And really, I do hope you’re smiling a whole lot. 🙂
photo credit: Francesco Marino