I remember when I moved to an area in downtown Cincinnati around 1992 that was quickly becoming an urban hip and trendy “neighborhood.”
I use quotations because my idea of a neighborhood was quite different from what I experienced there. However, I gamely signed a lease for a small ground floor apartment in a rehabbed Italianate row house.
I was eager to live in an urban environment, close to art galleries, restaurants, a micro-brewery, a few bars, and one magnificently eccentric coffeehouse. I considered the inhabitants my peeps – creative, resourceful, and daring.
I expected to connect with people. And I can usually connect with people quickly. But not this time.
No matter how often I used my “connect with anyone” technique, it fell flat. After three months, I moved to a neighborhood that was a little more my style.
The “Connect With Anyone” Technique That Usually Works
You actually came pre-built with this technique. From the day you were held in the arms of an adult, you naturally exuded this technique and quickly found that it would endear you to just about everyone.
What is it?
A genuine smile.
Watch how babies quickly pick up on the engagement that happens when they smile at someone. They soon start to gurgle in delight, shake their heads around, chortle, and overall completely charm everyone around them.
There are many reasons why that “smile factory” shuts down as a baby grows into a toddler, a child, a teen, and then adult, but one thing is certain – for those who continue to cultivate a smiling personality end up with more open doors and creating more opportunities than those who don’t.
The Power of a Genuine Smile
When I lived those few short months on Main Street, I remember smiling at people who struck me as a creative type. Because I was an artist, I wanted to connect with other like-minded individuals, especially since I had rented space in The Pendelton Art Center, a former warehouse building that had been transformed to studio space for visual artists.
The smile was genuine. However, there was a small problem. Most of these artists were trying way too hard to demonstrate an aloof attitude that (I guess) is to let everyone know how cool they were.
As I later told my friends, I’m definitely too friendly to be cool.
Usually, a genuine smile will cause other people to smile right back and open up conversations that before, probably wouldn’t have happened.
I’ve had people connect with me online simply because I had a photograph of myself that shows me smiling. What they don’t know is that the photo was taken by my husband only a year or so after we first married and I was looking at him with love (I still do, even after almost twelve years!).
People respond positively to those who smile versus those who look like their dog used their Droid as a chew toy.
Go Ahead, Practice
When I coached single women over 40 how to create opportunities to find love, we talked about smiling. In fact, it was mentioned in a book that I recommended. (If you’re a single woman, you may hate the title. One woman I suggested it to immediately did and was highly offended that I even suggested she read it.)
The book is Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others: The Fascinating Research That Can Land You the Husband of Your Dreams by John T. Molloy. Molloy made a name for himself in the eighties with his “Dress For Success” books.
He’s not a dating expert but instead, a polling expert. The material in the book is from hundreds of interviews taken with couples who had just walked out of a marriage license office.
In the book, there was a section that talked about older women in an office taking their lunch hour to practice talking to each other and smiling. It may sound silly, but there are many people who just don’t realize they don’t smile that much and in fact, can repel conversation instead of attracting it.
The old “fake it until you make it” applies. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. You’ll find that you feel a little more positive and if you carry it out the door and start smiling at people, there’s a very good chance they’ll smile back, which will make you feel even better.
MaryEllen Tribbe, a highly successful executive, has hired many people for her company. She said that when meeting them, if they don’t smile within five seconds of meeting her, they’re done. It is the first thing she looks for in potential new hires.
She’s not the only one.
Many recruiters look for a smile that in their mind equals a positive “can-do” attitude. And networking events seem to always favor those who smile and reach out to others rather than those who stand in a corner and don’t smile at anyone.
So smile at a few people today, even at the cool kids who are trying too hard. At least you’ll know you’re giving a green light to those who are looking to connect.
And in the end, you’ll win.