The Smile Experiment

Smile Experiment

I have multiple personalities.

Not in a clinical, needing medication sort of way. But there are definitely different versions of myself that I present to the world depending on the day, the situation, and the people around me.

You do the same thing.

The person you are while playing with your dog is much more carefree and dorky than the person sitting behind your desk answering emails.

Generally speaking, I’d say I have 2 personalities that show up more often than the others: Business Sharí and Casual Sharí. Not only do these two versions come with their own wardrobe – the first with sexy, slimming suits and the other with yoga pants and a tank top – but they have their own characteristics and traits.

To be honest with you, I’ve noticed that I like one version of myself more than the other.

Business Sharí is highly approachable. She’s outgoing, witty, and sassy. She’s a pretty cool chick, if I do say so myself.

Shari Alexander writing

Casual Sharí, well, that’s a slightly different story. Casual Sharí is the one who works out at the gym. She’s the one who sits in a coffeeshop reading an e-book. She’s the one who waits in an uncomfortable chair at the airport. She’s reserved, observant, with a hint on shyness. She isn’t approachable.

As a single, petite female, I developed a pretty solid “don’t mess with me face.” Just a sociological necessity to avoid the bad people I suppose.

Walking in the mall. Going to my car in the parking garage. Shopping at the grocery store. In fact, one time I smiled briefly at an older guy in a grocery store, he followed me out. I was in my car when he tapped on my door asking me to roll down the window. I opened a small vent and had my foot ready on the accelerator. He asked me how to get somewhere. I told him that I had just moved here and didn’t know any places yet. Right when I was feeling happy that I looked like a local in LA, he said, “can I ask you something else?” “Ok.” “Why are you so beautiful?”

Thank god for power windows and a fast engine.

Especially after moving to LA, I think my “don’t mess with me face” has become pretty prominent. I don’t want to look like a guppy from Oklahoma to a city of sharks.

But, there is a downside. My “don’t mess with me face” became habit. I would send out the vibe of not being approachable. Always. Even if I did see a really cute guy at the gym, I struggled to remember what it was like to just soften up.

In doing research for my book, I’ve decided to put myself through a few communication and connection tests.

Shari Alexander SmileAssignment 1: The Smile Experiment.

Mission: Smile at everyone. Just a quick second to acknowledge someone else’s existence.

Results: Surprising.

A few interesting things happened. The first finding was completely unexpected. My body registered the regular smiling. There was bio-feedback. Within just a day or two, I felt a more relaxed and – even though it’s weird to say it – happier. Certain stresses that I held in my body went away. My shoulders and chest wouldn’t clench up as much – which was also part of the “don’t mess with me” face. It’s not just a face. It resonates through the whole body. And, apparently, so does a smile.

The second part was observing the reactions of others. It became clear how people become programmed with their patterns.

Generally speaking, people would instantly look away the second they saw a flash of a smile. They weren’t being rude, that’s just what they are used to. It has become a hair-trigger habit. And since my assignment was to keep smiling, when a smile wasn’t returned, I didn’t take it personally or think judgey thoughts about them as I might have before. I simply noticed the reaction and moved on.

However, I did get some smiles in return. I think this also played a part in the increased sense of happiness.

And, low and behold, apparently I suddenly became highly approachable!

I had lived in LA 9 months and I went to the gym practically every day. The only guy to talk to me was a trainer there who was slightly impressed by my TRX skills.

Within 2 days of my smile experiment, I was approached by 6 guys. Whoa!

While it is easy to slip into old habits and the “don’t mess with me face” is necessary at times, I’ve learned that a simple smile can not only help you in business meeting, networking events, and sales calls, but it can also help you. I feels good to smile. It’s nice to get one reflected back. Your body feels the resonance of the smile and then radiates it outward.

Have done the smile experiment? Give it a shot! Let me know your results. Have you noticed how approachable you are? What are your secrets? Leave a comment below.

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11 Comments

  1. HeyAgatha

    I totally agree. Giving smiles to everyone leads to so much more openness in life and in our world. You go girl!

    Reply
  2. HeatherDownes

    Shari, I love this idea of the smile not being on your face but resonating throughout your entire body and making you feel happier as a human being. I am going to start to pay attention!  Happy Friday!

    Reply
    • sharialexander

      @HeatherDownes Yeah! It’s amazing how it feels. Since I wrote this, I’ve noticed how easy it is to go back to “normal” mode and forget to smile. It continues to be a challenge I’ve set for myself.

      Reply
  3. AnaLisaRutstein

    Shari, I love your “Smile experiment” !   It is so true smiling changes so much 🙂

    Reply
  4. christinadunbar

    Love the smile experiment— have totally been doing the same thing on my hikes– smiling at everyone I see : )

    Reply
    • sharialexander

      @christinadunbar People are so nice on hikes! Smiling makes it an even more enjoyable experience. Smile and nature. Win and win. 🙂

      Reply
    • Sharí

      Whoa! Clifton wins the commenters award! (Which is me sending you happy thoughts of rainbows and unicorns.)

      All that chocolate goodness and it didn’t even go to my hips!

      Reply
  5. Holly Duckworth

    Shari,
    Love the blog! Isn’t it amazing how when we open our awareness to who and what we are giving out we realize that is what is coming back to us? I so feel your pain to balance wanting the “right” people in your life. I’ve been known to surround myself in my Mac devices like a shield to keep the men away. So sad. A powerful statement about learning to stand up for ourselves both inside and out. Keep up the smiles, HD

    Reply
  6. Sierra Modro

    Just read a great blog today on the science of smiling.
    http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-smiling-a-guide-to-humans-most-powerful-gesture

    Smiling is such an easy gesture, and it’s also a very good mood enhancer. If you’re in a bad mood, make yourself smile for a full minute. Your mood will improve!

    I love your idea of the Business and Casual identities. My Business self is far more extroverted than my Casual self, the same as you. I’m currently trying to merge my “personalities.” I like my Business self and want her around more often. 🙂

    Reply
    • Sharí

      Thanks for the link!

      I like my business self too. She’s a cool chic.

      Reply

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