27 January 2012

Why Smiling Is Good Business

Image Source: http://lifethroughartfoundation.blogspot.com
My first week of ninth grade, after transferring to a public school from the Christian one I'd gone to since childhood, I was approached by the friend of a boy who had a crush on me.

"He likes your smile," the friend told me. "He says you always have a big smile on your face, and he thinks it's pretty."

My ninth grade self was pretty embarrassed at this statement, that this boy who'd never even talked to me before liked my smile.  Of course, I was too awkward to ever have a conversation with my admirer, but the idea stuck: People like it when you smile.

As an adult, I've kept smiling.  I'm not always the most verbally eloquent person, but I am usually smiling and try to be engaged in what the other person is saying.  In business, I do the same.

After my recent workshop at the Idaho Business Extravaganza, I learned that several of the participants appreciated my happy disposition and the smile I had throughout most of the presentation.

In meetings, I've found that a smile can get through to even the most reserved client.  In interviews I do for writing projects, I've found that laughter and smiles make our time together much more productive and useful.

It's funny: I've also found that a simple smile can break through some of the barriers I face in the work place.  As a woman, I know that society believes I should either be like Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada or a modern-day June Cleaver.  Frowing or smiling.  Working or homemaking.

I resist the conventional wisdom that tells me that, as a woman, I need to be stern and assertive, to "prove myself" through my demeanor and words.  I resist the idea that work can't be fun, that people can't just get along, that you can't smile through meetings (or have any other emotion, for that matter).  Now, I know that you can't always smile genuinely---firing an employee, for example, is a time when a smile might be taken the wrong way---but I do think a happy demeanor is key in business.

I also laugh.  A lot.  And genuinely, too.

So, try it: Next time you're in a meeting, at a client lunch, or doing something else professionally-oriented, add a few extra smiles into your game plan.  I bet you'll like the results.

09 January 2012

How to be Alone

My sister shared this video the other day, and it's beautiful.  Enjoy.

07 January 2012

On Photographs (or, What Will 2012 Bring?)

This quarter, I am taking just one class: memoir writing.  In it, we were instructed to choose a photograph---any photograph---which we are to later write a reflective essay on.  Instantly, I thought of this photo:

One of my favorite snapshots of our time in the Dominican Republic, this picture captures a lot of things for me: the peacefulness and reflectiveness of travel, the life of the rural Dominicans, the poverty that sneaks up on you as a traveler, waiting around corners and in between buildings, ready to expose itself when you least expect it.  But most of all, this image captures a moment in time, a place I loved, and an adventure I won't soon forget.

Jarabacoa, where the photo was taken, is a rural mountain town known for its crops: strawberries, coffee, and peppers, as well as its flowers.  It's a beautiful little place with a nonexistent nightlife, not much in the way of tourism, and definitely little to offer the spoiled traveler who came to the DR for the beaches and five-star resorts; but to us, it was a favorite spot, just a two-hour bus ride away.

It's also the place where some pretty crazy things happened: the bat that got stuck in our room and dive-bombed me while I was sitting in bed; the hour-long horse ride through the mud and muck of the jungle, in which my husband and friend complained most of the time (but I really enjoyed); the waterfall excursions and swimming in the pools below; drinking beer in el parque, pretending not to feel out of place as the only gringos there; eating at the same restaurant three times because we couldn't find anywhere else; the final trip with a dear friend of mine in the DR, before we parted ways.  These are the things I love about my travels to Jarabacoa, the things I'll reminisce about for years to come.

And while I was looking for the above picture, I came across this one:

I call this my "explorer pose," because I, well, was trying to look like a traveler/explorer.  To me, this photo, while posed and a bit forced, shows a great deal about me as a person and how I changed in 2009.

Case in point: Doug loves to tell the story of how, shortly after we started dating, I said something like, "Oh, yeah, I don't stay in hotels less than four stars."  At the time, I think Doug just looked at me strangely, not wanting to offend his new girlfriend; later, he told me---and anyone else who would listen---how silly he thought I was for saying such a thing.  (I admit, it was a bit silly.)  But just a little over a year after that statement, here I am, clad in my explorer outfit, living in a new-to-me third-world country, wearing Chacos and my Timbuk2 bag, ready to tackle some adventures.  This is after riding a bumpy bus through winding mountain roads (which, I later learned, is a super deadly and dangerous road), checking into a MUCH less than four-star hotel, and eating some questionable food at a local joint across the street.

Ah, yes, 2009: the year I became tough.

As I look at these photos, I can't help but wonder what the heck I'm doing now.  If 2009 was the year I became tough, 2010 was the year I "went with it" by randomly moving to Asia, and 2011 was the year  my career took off and my hard work was finally recognized, what will 2012 be?

Well, for starters, it can be the year I realized a lifelong goal: writing a book.  But what else?  How will I grow personally, professionally, and spiritually?  How will I find adventure when I'm stuck here in the U.S., not traveling, and not immersing myself in new cultures?  Reaching a lifelong goal isn't enough for me this year; I need to do something big, to keep up with the tradition of years past.

But, really, you can't plan these things.  All you can do is take the opportunities life offers, go with the flow, and try to enjoy it.

I guess I'll just have to let life be what it is and see where it takes me.  As the Dominicans say, "A ver..."