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"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.