Have you ever smiled at someone and they’ve not smiled back? How did that make you feel?
Have you ever stopped your car to let the other person pass, or go first, or pull out in front of you and they haven’t ‘said’ thank you? And how did that make you feel? Feelings are a core part of who we are, but where do they come from and who is responsible for them?
Some will say that the external world has no impact on our feelings. Our feelings are created by ourselves, informed by the beliefs, assumptions and values that we hold. Which also in turn were created by us – admittedly shaped and informed by our interpretations of the world around us and the life we’ve lived. So when you stop to let someone in and they don’t thank you and you are irritated or enraged by their failure to say thank you – that is not their doing. It’s yours! And when you see a phrase on screen that offends or hurts – that’s not the author’s doing, it’s yours. And when as leaders we act to reduce trust because of our fears that’s our doing too.
Then there are those like Amy Cudy who has done research that says our physical selves affect the enzyme levels in our bodies and that this can impact on our moods and behaviours and the presence we create. Smiling is one of the things that can do that. It makes us feel happier and those around us react to a smile, usually by smiling themselves, which in turn will have an impact on them and their enzymes and feelings.
Who knows which is totally correct – here at Red Thread we believe it’s a combination of the two. We interpret the chemical changes wrought by our reaction to a smile by becoming more happy. Whatever the process the chances are that smiling at people does have a positive impact, both on ourselves and the people around us.
We’re great believers in courtesy. Now we understand traditions vary from country to country, region to region and person to person – but the intent behind courtesy is to treat those around you with appreciation; to value not judge; and to listen and understand. And the evidence says smiling is a universal courtesy and expression of warmth.
So we would encourage you all to show courtesy to each other; and at the very least smile to everyone you meet or pass in the street. And if they don’t smile back – well then smile all the harder and remember that any irritation you are feeling is your choice.