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A Big Smile, Please: The real impact of smiling on our perception (Part 2)

It’s interesting that in business portraits and team photos, most people are seen wearing big smiles. Depending on the culture, this smile can be normal, cheerful, or unnaturally happy. This rule has been around for decades. Although most people think that this is positive and clearly appropriate, we should be aware that this attitude has an important role to play, because honesty has been drastically valued in the general business environment, and there is an increasingly negative perception of this habit. We also need to see that the future of our business, especially in a post-crisis period, is significantly influenced by the “little things” that can be linked to honesty. So it is worth paying attention to the changes!

The Business Smile

I love the colloquialisms. That is, I am totally fascinated by the traditional business attitude that you should smile at the office – especially when you are being photographed or moving in public – because it is good for business, and good for your career. Then there are certain professions where many people say outright that if you don’t have a grin plastered on your face, don’t even try. One of those professions is definitely HR. When I think back over the last 20-25 years of HR, I can tell you that the number of forced, bitter smiles you see in this field is unmatched. For a long time, there were downright “outcasts”, often grim-faced professionals. Yet HR, at least real HR, which is taken seriously at the decision-making level, is responsible for people’s lives. And that is not a game! It should be taken seriously! After the crisis of 2008, a major change in this area began to take place, with the emergence of strong, dominant, often hard and stern-looking professionals. Leaders at the top needed colleagues who could be relied upon to make decisions. People who could look beyond emotions and into the world of common sense when it came to HR strategy. Of course, depending on the environment in which these people work, they may need to, and may even put on a “fake smile” during a company photoshoot. But at least they already internally don’t believe that a smile has a profound message to the outside world.

How much should we smile?

As much as “suits us”! I think this is the most important guideline! Every personality type has a relationship with smiling, and it should not be rewritten for the sake of anyone or anything. If only because honesty has become more important than smiling these days. The most challenging characters in this area are the analytical, systematic, and perfectionist ones. Because they are the ones who believe in brutal honesty and really like to look behind the scenes. They show exactly as much emotion – or sometimes even less – as they actually realise in their lives. They are not engaged in this smile war. That’s why when they smile, it has a profound effect; they are surrounded by a serious calmness, because everyone knows that this is a sign of real happiness. On the other side of the challenges are the optimistic, mood-dependent, creative, dynamic, intrinsically motivating characters who have always smiled before. The more miserable their lives were, the more they smiled to cover up their trials and tribulations. Nowadays, people see through these smiles, and in a post-crisis period, “nobody buys what they are selling” anymore. And, of course, there are those people who live their lives in a genuinely happy, balanced way; they always have. If they have a reason to smile, they do; if they don’t have one, they don’t. They are also authentic, even though it makes them an open book to the outside world, but they already know that.

Smiles, like so many things in our lives, have undergone a major transformation in their
value. Mostly it can be said that there are no longer any universal examples to follow. Let’s smile as much as we actually want to!