My day started off in the wrong direction. I spilled my coffee on the way to the car. I headed down the highway only to come to a screeching halt behind a layer of traffic. I finally arrived at my first appointment. While waiting in the lobby, I noticed a mirror, so I decided to check out my hair to make sure I didn’t forget to comb it. A quick check in the mirror and I confirmed that my hair was fine. But something much more important than my hair was out of place. I was missing my smile!

Research shows that a smile is a very powerful sales tool. Smiling can refresh your mood. It relaxes you and makes you feel at ease. It has been scientifically proven that smiling releases endorphins in the brain. The brain picks up the movements in your facial muscles that are responsible for creating your smile and this triggers the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins. These endorphins create a feeling of happiness and well being. Endorphins also inhibit the release of another chemical called cortisol, a chemical which makes you feel anxious. Those negative feelings caused by cortisol can easily be sensed by your customer, and they will surely detract from your meeting. On the contrary, a customer that comes out to greet a smiling salesperson will instantly be put at ease and feel relaxed as the meeting begins. So, your smile, or lack thereof, can set the tone for your meeting.

So, if you are having a bad day, should you force a smile? The answer is no but also yes. Studies have shown that the person on the receiving end can tell if your smile is genuine or fake. A fake smile involves only the muscles surrounding the mouth. A genuine smile is called a “Duchenne” smile and is named after a French scientist who advanced the study of electro-physiology. A Duchenne smile involves not only the mouth muscles but also the muscles surrounding one’s eyes. See the Science of Smiling. OK, so faking a smile may backfire on you when your customer comes out to meet you. He or she may think you are acting phony or that perhaps you need to use the bathroom in the worst way. Either way, it’s not a good start.

Yet research has also shown that forcing a smile really can improve your own mood during times of stress.  An article, Grin and Bear It, published by the Association of Psychological Science tells of a study which showed that one’s brain cannot tell the difference between a forced smile vs one that one you truly feel like making. Participants in the study were instructed to bite on chopsticks in ways which duplicated the muscle movements in both fake and Duchenne smiles. Whether real or fake, the participants who were smiling while undergoing activities designed to create stress showed lower levels of anxiety than the participants who did not smile. The brain released the endorphins in either case.

So, when you engage stressful events, and they are plenty, just smile. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Smiling will help you weather the storm with lower levels of anxiety. Then when the stress subsides, you will be able to more easily refresh your mind. Then your next smile will likely be a genuine one. Those who engage you, will sense this, and they in turn will do something positive. They too will smile!

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