The power of a smile

Also – only one cabin left for the September cruise to the Greek Isles


A man without a smiling face must not open a shop. —Chinese proverb

Dale Carnegie’s terrific book, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a must-read. Though written 90 years ago (1926), it is so rooted in basic human psychology, it still speaks to our modern age.

He taught seminars based on the book to large audiences in New York City.

Carnegie devoted an entire chapter— A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression— to the topic of smiling. When he taught this chapter at his seminars, he gave his students a simple assignment: Smile at someone every hour of the day for the next week and then come back to class and talk about the results. The positive results of this simple exercise were profound. His students learned that a smile is one of the most potent people skills and that it can dramatically improve human relationships.

Richard Wiseman, in his book Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things, said, “People smile when they feel happy. However, evidence suggests that the mechanism works in reverse; that is, people feel happy simply because they have smiled.” He refers to a 1988 research project conducted by Fritz Strack in which participants in one group were asked to hold a pencil between their teeth, but to ensure that it did not touch their lips which forced the lower part of their faces into a smile. Another group was asked to support the end of the pencil with just their lips, not their teeth, which forced their faces into a frown. The results revealed that people actually experience the emotion associated with their expressions. Those who had their faces forced into a smile felt happier (page 205).

Carnegie concluded his chapter on the power of a smile with these words:

The Value of a Smile

      • It costs nothing, but creates much.
      • It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.
      • It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
      • None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
      • It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.
      • It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature’s best antidote for trouble.
      • Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.

It’s helpful to consider the difference between our resting face and our engaged face.

Resting face – the way your face looks when you are at ease, with facial muscles relaxed. 

Engaged face – the way your face looks when you are consciously manipulating your face to appear more engaged, approachable, and friendly. I’ve also heard this called a “yes face.”

To display an engaged face, raise the eyebrows, open up the eyes, smile, and raise the forehead. To exhibit a resting face, do nothing. 

Let’s accept the same assignment Dale Carnegie challenged his students with: Put on you engaged face and smile at someone every hour of the day for the next week and then come back to class and talk about the results. Or, in our case, respond to this blog post.

Greek Isles Cruise – only one cabin is available

In three months a group of travelers and I will be visiting some of the great cities of the world: Rome, Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Naples; and some of the most beautiful geography on planet Earth: Santorini, Mykonos, Sicily.

There’s room for two more people.

Here’s a brochure with all the details.  Travel with Friends – 2022-Brochure

Questions? Email me at [email protected]


2 Replies to “The power of a smile”

  1. Thanks, Don. I really appreciate these and do read each one and save some as I did this one.

    I have not read the Carnegie book because I have always thought the title to mean “Manipulate people and use them for your advantage”!! Maybe I should read that.

    I am working on a book on the 23rd psalm. In the chapter on My Cup is Overflowing (My Cup Runneth over) I mention that one of the things overflows in the believer’s life is the abundant joy. And if it does, it will spill over to everybody who comes in contact with him.

    When I take my morning walk and I see someone I greet him/her by saying, “Good Morning, may God bless you today”. I usually get a response like thank you, or you too, or same to you. However, occasionally, rarely but it does happen, that the person does not respond as if he did not hear it at all. When this happens, our usual feeling would be kind of an embarrassment. However, when this happens to me, I send out a prayer for that person that Lord would give him His joy. Who knows that all the people that responded will not forget that, and this one who did not respond would not remember and his non-response keep him bothering all day and he may reconsider his life? We cannot assume, but most probably, the person did not respond because he has not found the real joy in his life.

    Someone has said, give your smile to everyone, especially to the one who does not have his own. Our smile is usually reciprocal. If someone smiles at us, we respond in smile. However, if everybody followed that rule, nobody will smile.

    Few days ago, I was in the return line at Wall-Mart. A woman in front of me had an infant boy seated in the cart. He looked at me and gave me a smile. A woman behind me saw that and asked the mom how old he was. She said a year old. I thought a year old has no inhibition to smile at a stranger. But he will grow up and will be taught not to talk to a stranger, not to look at or smile at a stranger. The world we live in is filled with fear and self-guarding. If we all smiled to each other, lot of violence will stop and we will be much more civil society. The main reason of it all, of course, people do not have the real joy in their heart and their cup is dry of any smile at all, like the person who would not respond to my greeting.

    1. Imanuel,
      Thanks for taking the time to write.
      Congratulations on your new book; I can tell from your response to this post that you write well.
      I like your story about your encounter at Wall-Mart. It is sad that we’ve taught our children to be suspicious of strangers.
      Recently, I smiled at a child and he started to smile back, then suddenly looked at his parent to see if it was okay.
      Take care.

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