Jul 15, 2011
It's Like Magic
I've been troubled by something for quite some time now. It's not my imagination either. I'm not perceived by others to be very friendly. It's true. Family, friends, co-workers and strangers have all told me so. But nothing could be further from the truth. I'm very friendly once you get to know me. I'm generally optimistic, fun loving and generous (a little cynical and sarcastic too, but in a funny way). Apparently, I send out the exact opposite signals. It's not that I don't like people. Well, actually, I really don't like most people but find them tolerable. Spending time with dullards is the price you pay to meet the really interesting, funny and smart people.
There are a few reasons I scare people off. My stature and heritage, very tall and a stern German countenance. It's intimidating. I have a tendency to place both fists on my hips, legs spread far apart, body language for "Yeah? You got something to say?" Another thing working against me is I'm an introvert. I will never be the life of the party. Unless it's a very small party with people I know really well. Oh and my tendency to speak bluntly can put people off too. Once I work up the courage to confront something I don't bother sweetening things up before they come out of my mouth. Time-waster.
I've always just accepted this about myself but a few comments recently had me wondering if I should and could change my image. When comparing me to my sister recently my uncle said "Well, everybody knows your sister has always been the friendly one." Ouch. Then a store clerk asked me recently if I was OK. I answered that I was and asked why she thought I wasn't. "The scowl on your face." was her answer.
Wow. Scowl? Really? I decided I needed to do something about this. As much as it pained me to think of myself walking around looking like a simpleton I vowed to start smiling at people. I'd always heard smiles bring out the best in people. That smiles connect people. When you smile at someone they smile back. It's also one of the universal, innate expressions of emotion. We are born to smile, we don't learn it.
My former method of connecting with strangers was to make some sort of witty comment about whatever circumstances we found ourselves thrust into together. Nine times out of ten I would get a sideways puzzled glance and a cold shoulder. Definitely not working for me.
At first I treated this smiling thing as an experiment. Would walking around with a forced smile plastered onto my face really make a difference? I am happy to report that it IS working. People are nice when you smile at them. Plus, smiling is becoming more natural for me, less forced. I'm not even thinking about it, just doing it.
This morning as the McDonald's lady handed me my coffee she said "It's so nice to see that big smile of yours. Have a wonderful day." That made my smile even wider. Two weeks of smiling and the world is already acknowledging my newfound friendliness.