I’ve heard it said that you’re supposed to smile while answering the phone because the person on the other end will be able to hear it. I’m not sure if it works or not–after all, if you can’t see someone, how can you tell if they’re smiling? and how can I hear myself if I do it?–but it’s a practice I’ve adopted just for the heck of it. I mean, why not?
But this is a thing, though. We’re told to fake emotion so that the person on the receiving end will be happy. In a conversation with someone? Laugh at his jokes. Someone sits next to you? Smile and her and strike up a conversation. Stroke his ego. Make her feel comfortable. Be friendly, and maybe people will like you. But what if I don’t want to be open? What if I didn’t want her sitting next to me and spilling her life story?
I reached a point where I thought, “This is stupid. I’m not a smiley person, if people are going to like me, they should like me for me.” So, in an ill-fated attempt to find myself, I decided to stop following the social convention of smiling all the time. (I kept my phone smiling practice–old habits die hard, I guess.) It was a bad move for someone who has trouble finding friends in the first place. Shy and scowling? People tended to give me a bit of a wide berth. Sure, they eventually started to laugh when they finally realized that yes, I was actually kidding, and no, I don’t hate them all, and no, I am not planning their murders in my head. But do you know how long it took me to reach that point?
I suppose my point is that social conventions are there for a reason, no matter how stupid you think they are. And not smiling gets pretty lonely. Plus, smiling–even fake smiling–releases dopamine and serotonin (self-produced happy drugs) in your brain, thus lightening your mood a little. So here’s to smiling at strangers and putting up with a few life stories. Cheers.