Etiquette of Smiling Appropriately

3 happy, smiling young women
Smiles are contagious and affect the moods of everyone around you. Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images

You might be surprised by how much of an impact a simple smile can have on how others perceive you. People will see you as friendly, happy, and an all-around positive person. Not smiling, on the other hand, may have others walking a wide berth around you.

When You Don't Feel Like Smiling

There may be days when you don't feel like smiling, but those are often the very days you need to the most. Showing grumpiness will only enhance the feelings that run deep.

If you look in the mirror and smile at yourself before you walk out the door, you'll probably feel at least a little bit better.

Contagious Smile

On days when you smile at people while you're out and about, you may feel that you come home happier than when you left. Your joy will radiate toward others, lift their spirits, and then come back to you. Since it's free and makes almost everyone around you feel better, it's an important aspect of good manners.

Smiling Tips

Here are some important tips on the etiquette of smiling:

  1. Allow your whole face to smile. You will look more genuinely pleasant, or even happy, when your cheeks move upward, the corners of your eyes crinkle, and your eyes become narrower and sometimes actually appear closed.
  2. First impressions are extremely important. Most people remember the first time they met someone, so it's a good idea for them to look back and have the image of your smiling face committed to memory.
  1. Make eye contact. When you smile after looking someone in the eye, that person feels as though your happiness is directly related to her. It's as good as giving a genuine compliment and will give her positive feelings toward you.
  2. Smile when meeting or greeting someone. It's nice to know the proper way to shake hands, but it's even better if you smile at the person while you're doing it. She is more likely to remember your name, and if you are in a business setting, she'll listen to you more attentively.
  1. Show joy in gestures and movements. Since people intuitively read body language, a smile is one of many types of body language that they will respond to. When you face someone without any of your limbs crossed and have a smile on your face, you'll appear more open, confident, and trustworthy.
  2. Identify people with a smile. Not only will smiling while saying a person's name give both of you a good feeling, you are more likely to remember his name and have a positive association.
  3. Leave with a smile. When it's time to part ways, smile as you say your goodbyes. This will leave the other person with a positive feeling and make him look forward to seeing you again.
  4. Smile during a job interview. Most employers want happy employees so flash your friendliest and most joyful smile to plant that initial seed during your job interview. You don't want them to look back over their stack of applications, only to have yours put in the "not interested" pile because you appeared miserable during the interview. Your smile might be the very thing that gives you the edge over another candidate with equal experience and education.
  5. Respectfully disagree with a smile. When you don't see eye-to-eye with someone, you can debate in a friendly manner as long as you smile rather than scowl. This lets the other person know that you respect his or her opinions, even if you don't agree. Add a smile to polite words and phrases, and you may even win the other person over to your side. Frowning and name-calling will almost certainly have your opponent tuning you out.
  1. Smile when talking on the phone. I've always heard that when a person smiles while chatting on the phone, the other person senses a more positive demeanor. I think this is true.
  2. Don't tell someone else to smile. If you see someone frowning, telling him to smile probably won't get the result you want. It might even have the opposite effect and make him mad. You're better off smiling appropriately with the hope that your positive action will rub off on him. However, if there is a good reason for his frown, don't try to cheer him up. Be sympathetic.
  3. Know when not to smile. There are times when a smile is inappropriate, like when you hear the news that someone close to your friend has died or that someone's house has burned down. Those situations call for a sympathetic demeanor as you try to comfort the other person with words of sympathy.