Can You Fake a Genuine Smile?

One of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld” is the one where Jerry needs to know how to fake out a lie detector.  So he turns to George, who is presumably the best liar on the planet. George looks at his friend and, with an air of mysticism, says something like, “It’s not a lie if you believe it’s true.”

I tell you this because I am struggling with how to justify what we do with our clients in light of my previous post.  When I woke up this morning, I was a little disturbed at what I had written.

Surely it is not a good idea for a public speaking coach to tell the world that smiling can be bad for your health.  We spend a huge amount of time urging our clients to smile. 

In a workshop with some lawyers this week, I confess to using the following words. “As you do this exercise, I want you to force a big, fake, phony smile. I know it’s going to feel odd. But I want you to do it anyway.”  And of course, when they watch themselves on video, they see that they look great.

How can I reconcile that statement with the idea that phony smiles can make you sick?  Because (and you have to imagine me doing my best George Constanza impression) a forced a smile isn’t phony if you really mean it.

I’m not suggesting that you smile when taking abuse. I’m not suggesting that you suppress emotions of rage. Rather I’m simply trying to get you to realize that smiling is a great way to connect with your listeners.   And with training and practice you can learn how to turn on that smile naturally when you get in front of people.

To be sure, it will feel forced when you’re not used to it. But a golf swing also feels forced when you’re just learning. If you practice smiling, you’re going to learn how “turn on the charm” when you need to. And that charm won’t feel phony at all.

And besides. How can we not urge you to smile? As Louis Armstrong knew, smiling is the best and most natural form of connection we have available to us. 



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