Travel Tips

The Power of a Half Smile

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What is your default facial expression? This morning on the packed 5:30AM shuttle bus from the parking lot to the terminal, most people looked mad or scornful. Since their expression never changed the whole ride it seemed clear that was their “resting face” and not the circumstances. And it was no surprise that people weren’t making much effort to make more room for each other, except when I boarded.

My “resting face” is a half smile. I’m not talking a smug look, but just one side of my mouth quirked up. Years ago a colleague gave me incredibly valuable feedback — my default expression looked critical. I was horrified since I’d assumed my face was expressionless when I wasn’t thinking/feeling something. I made a real effort to re-train my face, and the result is n0w I usually have a half -smile or slightly raised eyebrows (which suggest interest in my surroundings).

This accomplished two things 1). I come across as more approachable or friendly (and good things come more often to folks like that) and 2). I find it actually improves my own mood and/or makes me more interested in my surroundings.

Just as it wasn’t helpful to my professional life to have people thinking I was judging them when I wasn’t, it’s not helpful to your travel life to have people think you’re angry or unpleasant if you’re not. And if they even default to thinking you’re a nice person, you’ll have a much better travel experience.

I boarded the crowded bus this morning wearing a non-angry expression (calling it happy would be a big overstatement) and found the people I was crowding semi-smiled back and quickly gave me a few extra inches (women as well as men). It has an impact on queue behavior as well. (I recognize I’m probably weird for conducting experiments like this.) For instance, aggressive business men are less likely to try to shove in front of me in line when I’m wearing a pleasant expression than when I’m looking bored. Almost as if they have no problem being a jerk to someone who might also be a jerk, but can’t quite bring themselves to be rude since I’m not.

So that’s my little tip for today. Go check what your face looks like at rest and see if you should make a change.

I’m interested if anyone has had similar experiences with their expressions getting them better or worse treatment?


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