Friday, April 15, 2011

The Art of Smiling

This past weekend I spent one day where dreams come to life, at The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This is supposed to be one of the happiest places on earth yet I noticed something strange, a lot of people were not smiling. They could not leave the stress of their everyday world outside the park.

I am sure you have noticed the change that is taking place in our society where civility and courtesy are becoming a rare commodity. When was the last time someone stopped and held open a door for you? When was the last time a store clerk smiled and did not look at you as if you were a distraction? In our fast paced world, we no longer take the time for basic politeness. We are only worried about getting what we need.

Now back to my trip to Disney World. The management of Walt Disney World has done an excellent job of training their employees, cast members, on basic public relations. Over and over I witness a simple smile and greeting from a clerk in one of the shops melt the stress from a guest’s (what they call a customer) face. By walking up and asking if they could help or just saying, “Have a great day” and smiling as the guest left an attraction changed the whole experience that day.

The more I saw this occur and the reaction it caused the more I was reminded of the important role simple courtesy plays in business and interpersonal relationships. In today’s business environment of high stress and fast paced action it is easy to lose sight of basic courtesy. We can’t afford to take the time to hold a door, give a smile, or exchange greetings. Or, can we?

A smile, a polite greeting or a simple acknowledgement that you exist can change the whole mood of a business situation. Whether you are putting together a business deal, negotiating a real estate contract, or having a simple meeting with fellow associates common courtesy will play a positive role in the outcome.

Here are a few examples.

- When you are frustrated, smile. A simple smile can change your entire outlook and help clear your thoughts.

- A smile during negotiations can make you feel and look confident especially during tense times.

- If someone is pushing you or trying to take advantage of you, smile. It can help put you back in charge and disarm them.

- If someone is being rude or obnoxious to you, smile. It can help ease the situation and soften them.

- When a sales clerk treats you like a distraction, smile and offer a greeting.

- If a co-worker is having a bad day, smile and wish them a happy day.

- When you have to counsel with an employee, smile and it will help them become more receptive to your suggestions.

I know it is hard to do and sometimes requires a lot of work but, being courteous and smiling takes a lot less effort and energy than being grumpy and argumentative. Not only that, when you smile it is easier to do things with enthusiasm and enthusiastic people are usually the ones that get ahead in life. It is true, smiling increases your face value.

I once had a mentor who always told me, “No matter what they put you doing, even shoveling s--t, smile while you are doing it. You will be noticed.” The truth is it works and people do remember you as being the person who smiles or the person who is always courteous and helpful. This is one way to win points with your boss and customers.

Being courteous and smiling brings returns in all areas of your life and business. It eases tensions and allows you to enjoy the moment. By reducing tensions you can arrive at better decisions and outcomes. It can help you maintain control of an otherwise bad situation. People like being around and doing business with courteous people.

Like the old saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”

What are some of your experiences with the power of smiling and courtesy?

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