One habit I’ve picked up with unexpectedly positive results is smiling at strangers. Smiling is great. I remember laughing by myself while driving one day because I found it so bizarre and fascinating that everyone in the world, regardless of culture or background, contorts their mouth in the same way when they are happy. I’m sure the people driving next to me thought I had gone a bit bonkers.
In my sophomore year of high school, there was a cute girl that I had a crush on, and every morning, I would see her while leaving my history class because she also had history class in the classroom across the hall. Because I was not yet a baller and didn’t have much confidence, the extent of my interaction with her was smiling and sometimes waving. There was lots and lots of smiling.
The homecoming dance drew near, and I really wanted to ask the cute girl to go with me but didn’t have the courage. Everything changed when a mutual friend informed me that the cute girl was interested in going to homecoming with me. As you might imagine, I was ecstatic. Looking back, I don’t see any particular reason why this girl would’ve been interested in going to homecoming with me — I barely knew her. All I remember is smiling at her a lot, and I’m pretty sure that was the single biggest reason why we ended up going to homecoming together.
Nowadays, I’ll often smile at strangers that I pass on the street. Sadly, most people will simply avert their gaze and pretend not to notice. The magic happens when someone makes direct eye contact and smiles back. It’s a great feeling to be smiled at, and I can be sure that their day was made a bit better by the interaction just as mine was. Sharing a smile with a stranger really hits our core human need for connection to each other.
If making someone else’s day isn’t reason enough, maybe you’ll be persuaded by the fact that smiling makes you more attractive because you’ll look happier and more confident. Well, first you have to make sure that you don’t have a creepy pedo-smile. Go practice in front of a mirror. Maybe you should shave off that mustache.
Seriously, I wrote this whole post on smiling because I want to see more people try smiling at strangers. Too many of us walk around with our eyes fixed to the path directly in front of us, minding our own business. Try something different this week. Look at people right in the eyes and smile at them. You’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it before.
An important note: People respond a lot better if you smile after establishing eye contact rather than if you walk around constantly smiling and happen to glance at them. The latter might make you look crazy.