I Can Tell if You’re Truly Smiling
Genuine reactions are revealed beyond the mask
As more US businesses and municipalities announce mask requirements, the ongoing question continues:
Can they tell I’m smiling?
Let’s find out.
Smiling is essential
Smiling is an expression of emotion. We use this action to convey happiness as much as we do to comfort and reassure others. Smiles can express empathy and sympathy, calm anxiety, excitement, and humor. We also use them to ease our own pain.
When our smiling muscles contract, they stimulate the brain’s reward system, releasing endorphins, which make us feel good.
Without smiles, the ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic would be nearly non-existent.
Different types of smiles
There are five types of smiles. Only one is recognizable from behind a face covering.
- The fake smile is more of a smirk. We might think we’re being helpful, but don’t be surprised if someone takes immediate offense. This is how many smile for the camera, only to hate the photo because our facial expression is neither sincere nor flattering.
- An uncomfortable smile is often used to cover up real feelings. When someone says or does something inappropriate, we may smile to avoid telling them what we really think. This is common in professional environments.
- The seductive smile is used in conjunction with direct eye contact. Think of any classic movie scene of a woman sitting at the bar, hoping to catch a man’s attention. She’s thinking, hey, want to buy me a drink?
- Sarcastic smiles are often accompanied by a rolling of the eyes. I’m an expert at identifying this one because my husband thinks he’s so smart.
- The Duchenne smile is the most authentic expression of the five. It’s a positive upturn of the corners of the mouth in conjunction with the narrowing of the eyes. If a smile produces crow’s feet around the eyes, it’s likely genuine.
So, which of these is apparent when you’re wearing a mask?
The Duchenne smile is the winner.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t reinforce happy facial expressions with other movements.
Support your smile
Not sure if your eyes are conveying your sincerity? Reinforce the sentiment.
To happily say hello to the shopper you pass in the grocery aisle, amp it up with a short wave of the hand.
To sincerely thank someone, nod your head.
Want to make sure your good friends know you miss them? A Duchenne smile while blowing a kiss will do the trick.
Of course, you could always use the most tried and true method: say something. Just speak clearly and speak up, because masks tend to muffle our words.
Give your brain some happiness
These days, it’s easy to retain focus on the negative. But just as a happy brain makes you smile, smiling makes your mind happy! And genuine happiness is contagious.
The beauty of the Duchenne smile is its infectious ability to make others stop — even if for just a moment — and think, yeah, it could be worse.
Give it a try. The next time you see someone, dig deep for that genuine smile. When the brain’s happy place is triggered, the Duchenne smile will emerge. And they’ll know you’re being sincere.
Connect with me on Twitter.