How do you feel when someone smiles at you? I feel the eye contact creating connection and the warmth of the smile that uplifts me. I feel grateful to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated with this simple, welcoming gesture. Smiling is the universal language.
There are as many ways to say and write the word smile as there are languages. Smile, 微笑, ngiti, sourire, LÃ¤cheln, sorriso, 笑顔, 미소, لبخند, sonrisa, ยิ้ม, and nụ cười to name several. While we may say and write the word differently, we have felt the warmth of a smile, and are particularly touched when smiling eyes are looking back at you. I love that term, "smiling eyes". That is what we do when we authentically smile at another person. We smile with our eyes. As I considered the positivity in the act of smiling, eye-contact and connection with another person through warm, welcoming eyes, I wondered why we hear so much talk of disconnection in our society.
What if each of us committed to making eye-contact and smiling at all (or at least some) of the different people with whom we interacted each day? What if we generated more of the experience of truly seeing each other?
You mean people I don't know? Yes. You mean the janitor at my school? Yes. You mean the CEO of my company when I pass her in the hall? Yes. You mean the quiet person sitting alone in the school or company cafeteria? Yes. What about our teachers who are truly Building Tomorrow's Leaders Today™? Absolutely, and thank them... every day. Friends and family? Yes.
So why am I asking each of us to demonstrate confident vulnerability, to reach out to another human being and acknowledge their presence with a warm smile? I have found it brightens up my day when I both give and receive a smile. It opens me up and ignites my curiosity. It is a wonderful starting point for truly seeing another person no matter their background or the language he or she speaks. Who knows, it may actually lead to a "Hello". You carry no expectation that the gesture be returned, although it is nice when it is. The uplifting energy created is doubled when this happens. It feels great to be seen (and heard) and better when we are able to offer this to someone else. Offer this gift to someone. You often do not see the impact of your smiles on others and their day. That's fine. Remember when giving a smile, you are doing so because you want to both let someone else know you see them and to feed your soul.
Recently, I stopped at the store to pick up some groceries. This can be a rather mundane part of one's day. My experience on this particular day reminded me this does not have to be the case. The cashier at the Giant Food Store taught me this when she greeted me with a beaming smile, and a "Hello". I gladly responded in kind. This started a conversation about how thankful she was that today was Wednesday. I was thinking, Wednesday, really. I thought she would have said, Friday, or Saturday. No, she was glad it was Wednesday. I was curious about why she looked forward to Wednesdays, so I asked her about this. "We get paid on Wednesdays," she said with gratitude and a smile. This woman chose to bring her joy to her interactions with her customers. She uplifted me with her energy, warmth, and kindness. I left our exchange feeling grateful for our conversation that started with a smile.
There was a basic human need behind her joy. We all need to get paid so we can pay our living expenses, feed, clothe, and provide shelter for our families. What struck me was the attitude my new friend chose to bring to her work and her interactions. She shared her joy and in doing so uplifted at least one other person's day. This was a great reminder that we are always in choice, and we can always choose our attitude in any given moment. I will remember this woman the next time I see her because she shared her joy, and made what could have been a transactional interaction into one that I am now sharing with you.
The "language" of the smile is universally understood. It is so elegant in its simplicity, yet so powerful because of its ability to create connection with another person. It is a reflection of our oneness, our humanity, with the power to connect strangers, to communicate love, and to dissolve differences. What if you chose to make today, and every day, your Wednesday? What if you chose an attitude of gratitude regardless of the present circumstances? What stories might you inspire?
About the Author
Brian Kelly has over 25 years experience in Professional Development, Talent Development, Volunteer Leadership, and Information Technology. Brian is a certified Strategic Strengths Coach who values each person's uniqueness. Brian reconnects you with your truth through your strengths, so you can see and pursue new possibilities for your career and your life. To learn more about how to expand your strengths intelligence so you can better apply it to improve your results and relationships, click here to connect with Brian on LinkedIn. Brian may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles by Brian Kelly:
What Do You Mean: The Power of Clarity in Your Language (http://tinyurl.com/ohhpxc2)
Unleash the Power of Your Voice: Share Your Story (http://tinyurl.com/qjalxh4)
Be Bold. Be You. Breakthrough. (http://tinyurl.com/oc4rlho)
What if we started by seeing the similarities. (http://tinyurl.com/o9jwvqk)
To learn more about leveraging strengths to shift relationships and understanding the needs of your strengths, click the link below. This is the first chapter of Strengths Strategy's upcoming book, Unlocking Strengths: the Key to Accelerating Performance, Energy, and Relationships: http://strengthsstrategy.com/download-book/.