The Power of Smile in Business

The Power of Smile in Business

The Power of Smile in Business

This article highlights the scientific studies that demonstrate the power of a smile.

I also realize that the "rules" around smiling (when, where, and how much) differ in different cultures - and I would love to get your perspective.

Three things that make me smile:

  1. Thinking of all the wonderful people who buy my book - STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence
  2. Being booked for speeches - live and virtually - around the world.
  3. Helping executives, entrepreneurs, emerging leaders and sales professionals improve their body language and build their leadership presence with one-on-one leadership presence coaching sessions. 

Now, let me show you how you can smile your way to success!

Smiles have a powerful effect on all of us. The human brain prefers happy faces, recognizing them more quickly than those with negative expressions. Smiles are such an important part of communication that we spot a smile at 300 feet — the length of a football field. Smiles can also be your secret to success.

Here are five research-backed reasons to activate your smile power:

1. You Feel Better – Even If You Fake It

We all use social smiles in business settings when we don’t really feel an emotional closeness to those around us; the real smile is reserved for those we truly care about. And we’ve had a lot of practice doing this. We’ve been displaying both real and fake smiles all of our lives. A fake smile is easy to produce. It takes only one set of muscles to stretch the lip corners sideways and create a grin.

There’s no doubt that the “best” smiles build slowly and are genuine. They light up your face, crinkle the corners of your eyes and produces positive physiological changes in your body temperature and heart rate. But consider research findings that even if the smile is mechanically produced, positive feelings still emerge. This study matched samples of people looking at cartoons. The first group ranked every cartoon as funnier than the second group. The only difference is that members of the first group were asked to hold a pencil crosswise between their back teeth. The simulated smile caused by the pencil between their teeth effected their emotion – and their perception of the cartoons as funnier.

2. You’ll be Unforgettable

Why do some people make a lasting impression while others are quite forgettable? The answer may be in their smile.

Research from Duke University proves that we like and remember those who smile at us – and shows why we find them more memorable. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the Duke researchers found that the orbitofrontal cortices (a “reward center” in the brain) were more active when subjects were learning and recalling the names of smiling individuals.

3. You’ll Encourage Collaboration

No one, regardless of how intelligent he or she may be, can succeed alone. We all need the knowledge and ideas of others. You know that. But did your know that by merely smiling or frowning you can influence how a speaker reports information and how it is subsequently remembered, and possibly passed on?

According to research conducted reported by the British Psychological Society, positive and negative emotional responses systematically alter the use of language. Speak to a positive listener and people will likely use more abstractions and subjective impressions. But if people talk to a negative listener, they’ll probably stick to the relative security of objective facts and concrete details.

Researchers speculate that this is because the smiles and nods of a positive listener are interpreted as a sign of agreement and understanding, encouraging the speaker to provide more of their own opinions and speculations. By contrast, negative listeners provoke speakers to adopt a more hesitant and cautious thinking style.

4. You’ll Increase Your Productivity 

Charles Garfield, the author of Peak Performance, once coached the Russian Olympic weight-lifting team. Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort. In an experiment, he encouraged the athletes to smile when they got to that point of exhaustion. This seemingly minor difference enabled them to add 2-3 more reps to their performance.

No matter the task, when you grimace or frown while doing it, you are sending your brain the message, “This is really difficult. I should stop.” The brain then responds by sending stress chemicals into your bloodstream. And this creates a vicious circle: the more stressed you are, the more difficult the task becomes. But when you smile, your brain gets the message, “It’s not so bad. I can do this!” 

5. You’ll Positively Influence Others

Some nonverbal behaviors can bring out the best in people. Smiling is one of them, as it directly influences how other people respond. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.

Maybe that’s why a DePauw University study found that people whose smiles were weakest in snapshots from childhood through young adulthood were most likely to be divorced in middle or old age. (1 in 4 compared to 1 in 20 for the widest smilers.)

And if you ever go on trial, keep this in mind: Although courtroom judges are equally likely to find smilers and non-smilers guilty, they tend to give smilers lighter penalties, a phenomenon called the “smile-leniency effect.”

Want to brighten your mood, make a lasting impression, encourage collaboration, lighten your workload, and positively influence others?

All you have to do is smile.

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  • Alex M

    Smiling can boost our health and bring positive outcomes.

  • Danielle Lambert

    Even forcing a smile can legitimately reduce stress and reduce heart rate

  • Jason Blunden

    Happiness at work is what makes us smile

  • Adam Wadsworth

    Smiling leads to longevity.

  • Jessica Moore

    One smile absolutely changes the way I think and feel.

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Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Leadership Expert

Carol is an international keynote speaker at conferences, business organizations, government agencies, and universities. She addresses a variety of leadership issues, but specializes in helping leaders build their impact and influence skills for fostering collaboration, building trust, and projecting that illusive quality called "leadership presence." She is the author of "STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence." and the creator of LinkedIn Learning's video course, "Body Language for Leaders." Carol completed her doctorate in the United States. She can be reached at

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