[This post is also available at www.guestfriendly.org.]
Your face probably lies . . . a lot!
You think you know what your face is saying, but it’s very possible you don’t. I discovered this the hard way. For years I thought I was expressing a kind, friendly expression everywhere I went.
Here are two examples:
- A few years ago I was driving to work and passed by a church attendee walking in the parking lot. She saw me and lifted her hand in a brief wave of greeting. I made eye contact as I passed by, moved my mouth muscles into what I considered to be a ‘greeting smile’ and nodded. Immediately, I got the impression I should ‘check’ what my smile looked like. So I looked up into the rear view mirror and repeated the smile, only to be horrified to see a scowl looking back at me!
- I remember sitting in my office across from a young couple in our church. The young man was interested in a job and had brought his wife along to discuss details and options with me. At one point in the conversation, he made a great comment that solicited a positive emotion inside of me. In a purely automatic response I again, moved my facial muscles in a modicum of a smile and nodded thoughtfully. A few moments later, I remembered the ‘scowl’ from the parking lot and realized that I had just frowned at him when I should have been smiling!
Most people smile at least a few times a day without even thinking about it. At least, they smile on the inside. Something happens that brings a small measure of joy into our hearts and we respond, either intentionally or unconsciously with a smile or nod.
The problem is, for MANY of us, our outward reactions don’t even
come close to our intention or genuine feelings.
This was true for me. One day my wife mentioned something about my ‘frown’ and I finally started paying attention. I was appalled and embarrassed. What I thought was a thoughtful or gentle smile was a total frown. I’m not exaggerating. My mouth automatically turned down on both sides creating a perfect frown. Ugh!
Since then I have been having an almost daily battle with my face – forcing it to truly express what I think and feel instead of what it (as if it has a will!) naturally expresses.
As a pastor, public speaker and Jesus follower with a strong desire to encourage and strengthen those around me, this became a very important issue for me. I’m afraid to think too much about the number of people I have given a negative impression about me, or worse, Jesus Christ, because of my expression.
The Scary-Mad Man
A while back our church hosted a national speaker and pastor for a conference. He brought one of his pastors and associates to assist him during the conference. Since I was sitting behind him, I engaged him in some breif conversation before the service. My first impression was less than nice. He seemed extremely unfriendly and antisocial. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was mad at me.
What shocked me was when the national speaker got up and introduced him as one of the kindest, passionate man with a huge hunger for God. I realized I had fallen for his scary expression. He seemed to be constantly frowning, even when it seemed like he should be happy.
It’s sad to say, but this has happened to me more often that I want to admit, and often from pastors and christian leaders that are, or should be, held with a measure of respect and esteem.
In his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki said, “What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if it prevents you from connecting with people. While smiling sends a very clear message about your state of mind, not smiling creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger – none of which helps you enchant people.”
It turns out little orphan Annie had the right idea, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”
How is your smile, really?
Check out “Teach Yourself to Smile” to learn some great tips on how to smile!