A smile, one of the most basic elements of human interaction, says so much about how we feel inside. Wikipedia notes, "A smile is a facial expression formed by flexing the muscles near both ends of the mouth. The smile can also be found around the eyes. Among humans, it is customarily an expression denoting pleasure, happiness, or amusement...Cross-cultural studies have shown that smiling is a means of communicating emotions throughout the world. But there are large differences between different cultures. A smile can also be spontaneous or artificial (when people feel obliged to smile). Happiness is most often the motivating cause of a smile." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smile)
But can you spot the difference between a real smile and a fake one. Try this psychology test from the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/index.shtml.
I'm happy to say I got 18 out of 20. Let's see if anyone can beat me.
A good friend of mine, Chris Fogg, a veteran trainer of using English to communicate, wrote me these simple and intuitive thoughts about why we smile. Have a read and let me know if you have any other ideas on the subject.
Why do we smile?
Why is the smile of a young baby so delightful and engaging? Are the smiles of adults different from those of children? A smile is a valuable means of communication, so how can it be used?
We smile because we are happy. Children’s smiles are delightful and engaging because they come from innocence – there is no ulterior motive other than to show us that what they can see or hear (taste does not interest us here) is giving them pleasure.
We as adults sometimes smile for the same reason – it’s involuntary and natural – but we also do it because we could be using it to encourage someone to do something for us. We may be expecting a gift - we may be encouraging them to open up more and reveal something they seem to want to conceal – and sometimes it’s just because we want the other person to like us.
So the smile is important in communication - whether we realize we’re doing it, or not.