Predictions for 2023 are pretty bleak. The ongoing drumbeat around rising interest rates and inflation and the continued potential for a recession continue. The tech sector is a scary place in which to operate, and we’re still witnessing the repercussions of the major layoffs that took place last fall — not to mention a sea of workforce reductions early this year.

Best-case scenario, we’re looking at a year of belt-tightening and diminished expectations in 2023 — and it could best be described as a huge bummer.

So, other than work hard, what can one do in the face of such doom and gloom? I’ll suggest that one of the best things to do is to just smile. Are marketers and customer experience professionals up for the challenge?

I had occasion to reflect on this simple affirmation while going through a particularly difficult series of client calls. One company had to give up our services due to budget cuts, and another had to renegotiate terms. Sometimes these things happen. Despite everyone’s best efforts, relationships can change, and you lose clients and, ultimately, revenue.

So, in these circumstances, I could only think of some battle-worn advice to share with my team. SMILE. Smile even if it kills you. Smile even if you don’t mean it.

The Point: Why This Matters

  • Smiling has numerous benefits, both personal and professional.  Physiologically, smiling releases neuropeptides that interact with "feel-good" neurotransmitters, making you feel better and more attractive to others.
  • You're a better colleague if you smile. In a business context, smiling has been shown to reduce defensiveness, improve relationships and increase creativity.Smiling has monetary value and is considered a valuable high-level communication skill in business. A genuine smile adds value to social and business interactions and has the potential to improve quality of life.

Why Smile When Things Suck?

The reasons behind smiling when things are grim — including making yourself feel better — are numerous and, in many cases, well-documented.

In addition to making you appear to be friendlier, more confident, and easier to work with, smiling actually makes you sound different. People can literally “hear a smile” because it changes your voice in what is called an “auditory smile” that is more likely to elicit a positive response.

Other research suggests that smiling positively impacts your brain and body. It releases neuropeptides that interact with the “feel-good neurotransmitters – dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — [that] are all released when a smile flashes across your face.”

In addition to increasing your serotonin levels without a prescription, smiling helps others perceive you as more attractive. And, honestly, what could be better than a free facelift?

Additional research shows that having a smile can influence our own personal perceptions of emotion and the way in which we see the world. Rooted loosely in the 12-step program concept of acting “as if,” the simple act of smiling essentially conditions our body to have a better physical response to adverse circumstances. There is some meaningful, albeit complex, interplay between our body and the physical way that we carry ourselves. If we adjust the way that we approach situations — like always trying to smile — we can create more positive feelings (and, presumably, outcomes).

Related Article: From the Good News Department: Smiles, Virtual Hugs and Comfort Food

Learning Opportunities

Smiling Has Business Benefits

What’s more, a hearty smile has business benefits. Smiling kills the sense that you are defensive, have something to apologize for, or are uncertain. The best leaders encourage and nurture their people through positive communication and pleasant interactions, and smiling is considered by experts to be a “high-level communication skill” that ties into emotional expressiveness, which can help to motivate and inspire.

When the principals involved demonstrate sensitivity and caring — such as through a smile and a kind demeanor — managers can cultivate better relationships with employees, partners and customers. A positive outlook also demonstrates emotional regulation and control, which is the expression of appropriate feelings and sentiment at the right time. This can be critically important in business settings. These nuanced skills, which, of course, integrate smiling, are (or should be) part of any experienced business professional’s repertoire and represent something to aim for as a manager of people.

Happiness Enhances Creativity

What’s more, a positive outlook helps drive creativity — as marketers and CX pros know, great ideas are hard to come by. And if by smiling you can bring a little more happiness into the realm of work, particularly when it comes to creative brainstorming and developing new campaign ideas and workarounds to problems, so much the better.

In fact, there’s a significant body of research that suggests that happiness and creativity are linked in powerful ways and that “creative people are happier.” This sounds like a good reason to smile to me!

Related Article: It's Not an Ad, It's an Individualized Human Experience

A Smile Even Has Monetary Value

In addition to being a business skill, a smile has monetary value. Researchers of human interaction studied the effective price of a smile and placed it at one-third of a penny — which isn’t a lot but is better than nothing! More important than its dollar value, however, is the “social currency” of a smile and its ability to “do anything from luring shoppers to spending more than they intended to, creating lucrative working relationships.” The research essentially concludes that a genuine smile adds value to social and business interactions and that smiles have the potential to improve quality of life across the board.

And while we can debate the financial value of a smile until the end of time, it is certainly fair to say that smiling just makes us feel better — which is worth quite a lot on the emotional scale. Smiles last for just a moment or two, but their “halo effect” does, in fact, last, helping to get us through tough times at work or in life. That’s why “just smile” is often the best answer in uncertain times.

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