When a stranger on the street smiles at you:
1 – You assume he is either crazy or drunk
2 – He is an American!
If you guessed number 2, you are 100% right!
Smiling is FREE.
Smiling is contagious.
Smiling makes both you and the recipient happy.
Smiling expresses your desire to be friendly.
Smiling means you pose no danger to the opposite person.
Smiling shows your desire to communicate.
Smiling shows you are happy to see the other person.
Yet ……. this is not a common practice in most Eastern countries!
India has inherited this trait from the Brits. The next time you are out, just pay attention to how many smiles you receive from a stranger or even professionals. You will be surprised!
There’s an interesting line of research that helps explain outliers on the other end of the spectrum, too: Specifically, Americans and their stereotypical mega-watt smiles.
It turns out that countries with lots of immigration have historically relied more on nonverbal communication—and thus, people there might smile more. A poll was conducted of people from 32 countries to learn how much various feelings should be expressed openly, the authors found that emotional expressiveness was correlated with diversity. In other words, when there are a lot of immigrants around, you might have to smile more to build trust and cooperation, since you don’t all speak the same language! Countries like Canada and the United States are very diverse, with 63 and 83 source countries, respectively, while countries like China and Zimbabwe are fairly homogenous, with just a few nationalities represented in their populations. (India is the same way).
So Americans smile a lot because their Swedish forefathers wanted to befriend their Italian neighbors, but they couldn’t figure out how to pronounce buongiorno. Seems plausible. But there’s also something very w i d e about the classic American grin. Why is it that Americans smile with such fervor?
People in the more diverse countries also smiled for a different reason than the people in the more homogeneous nations. In the countries with more immigrants, people smiled in order to bond socially. Compared to the less-diverse nations, they were more likely to say smiles were a sign someone “wants to be a close friend of yours.” But in the countries that are more uniform, people were more likely to smile to show they were superior to one another. That might be because countries without significant influxes of outsiders tend to be more hierarchical, and nonverbal communication helps maintain these delicate power structures.
Researchers compared the official photos of American, Indian and Chinese business and government leaders. After coding them according to their levels of “facial muscle movement,” they found that American leaders in all contexts were both more likely to smile and showed more “excited” smiles than the Indian and Chinese leaders did.
Now so that you have the clues, the next time you watch our Indian political and business leaders speak, pay attention to these factors. They always look angry and very rarely smile or crack jokes.
It is a general practice or protocol, if you prefer, in America to hold the door when you enter a place and turn around to see if someone else is approaching behind you and hold the door for that person. A prompt “thank you” with a smile follows. Similarly, when there are several people in an elevator, the person closest to the keyboard would ask others, “which floor?” and presses the button accordingly. The gesture is alway met with a big smile and a sincere “thank you”. It is also a common practice for every medical person to address the patient by his/her first name on entering the room, offer a broad smile and introduce self by the first name and the purpose his/her visit.
Dale Carnegie, the author of world’s most popular book “How To Win Friends & Influence People” wrote in his book, “The world’s most popular music is one’s own name”. Isn’t that amazing? People always love to hear their own name! That’s the name they were born with and will stay with them till their dying day. Try this out the next time you meet someone. Introduce yourself with a smile and say “I am …….. The response will invariably be, I am so and so…… From that point onwards, address that person by his first name and use it as frequently as possible in as many sentences, as you can. For instance: “Anil, where do you live?”, “Would you like a cup of tea, Anil?”, “I am so glad I met you, Anil” etc
Like so many other daily practices, the American smile is a product of our culture. And it can be similarly difficult to export. However, there are several professional companies in America who have their reps travel all over the world, teaching them the magic of a smile! There is a company who goes around the world training sales and management staff (in mainly the retail industry) “How To Smile”! No, not just a physical smile but here the word SMILE stands for: Sell More Incurring Least Effort! And trust me, they are making big bucks from this simple technique!!
So the next time you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours and let the magic do its job.
By Wilson Battu