My dad taught me, upon meeting people for the first time, to look them in the eye, smile, and give a firm handshake. Guy Kawasaki, in his book, Enchantment, talks about the importance of smiling – the kind of smile that comes from thinking pleasant thoughts and lights up a room with its sincerity. It’s the kind of smile that “reaches the eyes,” disarms, enchants, and instantly helps to form connections with other people.
It’s an uphill battle, some days. Some days, negativity abounds, and it’s catching. But with persistent cheerfulness, you can gradually influence the emotional atmosphere around you. You must be persistent, though. The first five days, they’re likely to chalk it up to a change of sinus meds. Seriously – try it – how did something that came so naturally to most of us, when we were kids, become so awkward – even a little scary – as adults?
Why bother? How often have you smiled at a stranger, or even a coworker, and been met with an icy, slightly defensive expression?
Douglas W. Hubbard writes, in Pulse, that “studies have shown that a person’s tolerance for risk can be affected by environmental factors or moods,” and that “simply being briefly exposed to smiling faces makes people more risk tolerant in betting games.” Angry people may take bigger risks and fearful people are downright risk averse.
So what do you think a sincere smile could mean to you as you work towards your goals? Would it help to build connections with others? A cheerful, genuinely friendly smile makes you more approachable to others. Would it help if the people you pitched your ideas to – maybe the people you hope will help to fund your next venture – were feeling at ease and more risk tolerant than usual?
Myspace and Facebook have changed and perverted the way we think about the word “Friend.” It’s now a verb, as in, “I Friended you. Why didn’t you Friend me back?” Or “I put you in my Top 8 – how come I’m not in your Top 8??” Clicking Accept or putting someone in your Top 8 just to keep from being hounded them until you do is not particularly friendly – sometimes, “I Friended You” merely means, “Hush up, already!”
But it has also opened us up to a whole world of new people. Supposedly, about 95% of people who use any form of social media – regardless of their age – have a Facebook account. By population, if Facebook were a country, it would be about the third largest country in the world. In drawing together people who might otherwise never have encountered anyone outside of their own local community, Facebook has actually done a lot to further the formation of friendships.
To be friendly, you have to get to know people. Accept them. Find common ground and something to like about them. Don’t merely “tolerate” differences in others. When you find those shared values, concerns, and dreams, it’s easier to accept and respect people of all nations and ethnicities, and to honor their diversity of thoughts and customs. If it’s commonality that draws us together, it’s in the differences that we find reason to be intrigued and interested in each other.