Or: Yes Brad, You Can Smile in Spanish.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE
I spent three weeks with my family in Guatemala over the holidays. (What can I say? I have a great job.) I learned about a million things: Spanish, Poverty, Geology, and Food. I also learned that you probably cannot spend too much time with your kids.
But the most surprising lesson I learned is about the power of the smile. And I learned that I have a lot to learn.
Let me explain. During my day-to-day interactions with people, I use a bunch of humor. I joke with everybody from my wife to the teller at the bank to the woman at the grocery store. I feel that I get more of everything when I joke. More fun, less stress, and even better service.
Rewind back to Guatemala. I don’t speak Spanish. And what little Spanish I know puts me well into the category of, say, an underachieving pre-schooler. In other words, my command of the Spanish language is … er … lame.
(I’m not kidding, I’m really bad at it. I probably know about 200 words, but only two of them are verbs.)
This means that my humor came to a dead stop. If you can’t use the language you can’t make jokes. There are no plays-on-words. No subtle sarcasm. No witty comebacks. My entire arsenal of humor was all wet.
To tell you the truth, I was so busy trying to just get by (“Where in the heck is the boat that will help us find the freaking market?” “No thank you, that big bag of onions looks fabulous but I’m trying to buy a banana!”) that I barely noticed that I had not even tried to be funny.
But then — and I know you’ve had moments like this — I got it. I mean, I GOT it. I finally realized that I was totally connected to some Guatemalans, and not others. Some of them seemed super friendly, super generous, and willing help me and my family in spite of the fact that I was butchering their beautiful language.
Why? I finally realized that when I was smiling (or better yet, laughing) I could get away with ANYTHING and people just got MORE helpful. They would laugh and smile back.
So….smiling helps. Duh. I can’t believe that after years of training how to make people laugh, I forgot about the power of laughter.
So… what did I do differently? From that point on EVERY time I interacted with a Guatemalan I made sure I had a smile plastered on my face. A big genuine smile. (Sometimes I faked the “genuine” part, but hey! Authenticity doesn’t have to be real does it?)
(Yes dear readers. That was a joke.)
The result was instant and obvious. When I smiled, people treated me better, I had more fun, and I got more of what I needed. Better directions? Smile. Need to find out what is that gross thing in the stew pot? Smile. Negotiating for that souvenir for your six-year-old? Smile!
So…what’s this got to do with you? When is the last time YOU worked — yes, I meant it: worked! — to make sure you were smiling? Do you laugh as often as you should? Should you smile more?
Don’t you think that smiling and laughing will help your leadership style? Won’t it help you manage others? Sell more? Communicate better? Darned right.
And the cool part is that even if you fake it at first, eventually enough good will result from your fake smiles that you won’t need to fake your happiness any more.
Now that I’m back among English speakers, I’m back to my sarcasm, wisecracks and jokes. But now I smile more too. And guess what? It works in English too.
ARE YOU SKIMMING? Then read this: when you smile and laugh more, you’ll get more of what you want.
What Do you Think? Share examples how how smiling has helped YOU get what you want. (In Business. At Home.)
Leave it in a comment. I dare you!