Debunking the "If you smile then you will feel good on the inside" myth

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    Sep 27, 2008 9:22 AM GMT
    [Dr. Jake Cap On]

    I hate this statement sooooooo much because it's only partially true:

    "If you smile then you feel good on the inside."

    This is based on psychological studies that show if someone displays behavior incongruent with their emotions, then it results in cognitive dissonance, which in many cases results in emotions changing in order to become congruent with the behavior. Unfortunately this particular outcome turned into pop-psychology, and was then mindlessly shoved into pop-culture work mentality, especially for people working in customer service. So now these people think:

    (1) Change the emotions to match the behavior
    EXAMPLE: "I hate this customer but I smile. I'm going to change my negative emotions to positive emotions to stay consistent with my smile. After all I am smiling so I must therefore be happy on the inside."

    Yes this can occur if your behavior doesn't match your emotions. But many people don't realize that this is only ONE of THREE resolutions to the cognitive dissonance they experience when they smile but have contrary emotions. The other solutions are:

    (2) Change the behavior to match the emotions.
    EXAMPLE: "I hate this customer but I smile. I'm going to change the smile to a frown to keep consistent with my current emotion. After all, I should be manifesting how I feel rather than internalizing superficial facial expressions."

    (3) Justify the difference between a behavior and attitude that supposedly counter each other without changing either one.
    EXAMPLE: "I hate this customer but I smile. I'm only smiling because if I don't I lose my job, but NOT because I feel good on the inside. My dissonance is justified through a third factor. Therefore, I still hold negative emotions while I smile."

    So if you smile, you may only think you feel good on the inside because it's your only option, and you're probably not aware that Human Resources left out the rest of the results from the experiments in your job training manual. They just want to give you the illusion that every time you smile you have to feel good on the inside, and then when you don't feel good after smiling you think there's something wrong with you, but not the theory "smile = positive emotions". There's nothing wrong with you. It's just misinformation that's been given to you.

    Now you know why when you smile under certain circumstances at work you still won't feel good on the inside. Now that you know what to do, you can feel right by giving into your gut once in a while and just frown at the stupid bitch and say "Your face sucks". That will TRULY make you feel better on the inside.

    DISCUSS!
  • Tyinstl

    Posts: 353

    Sep 27, 2008 9:32 AM GMT
    jakebenson"Your face sucks."


    My favorite part of the thread, lulz. Also the use of the phrase "cognitive dissonance". I heart that phrase.

    I'm not really sure where someone got the idea that smiling makes you happy. Smiling is a symptom of happiness, not a cause...you don't get tuberculosis from coughing.

    Actually I kind of do. It's similar to when I was playing competitive chess and people were telling me to be confident in order to be win. "No," I would say, "Confidence follows success. Forcing yourself to be confident when you don't have the success to back it up is bravado."

    likewise, trying to get happy by showing symptoms of happiness is retarded.
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    Sep 27, 2008 10:36 AM GMT
    But why do we need this research when the world is made of sunshine, kittens and cookies!

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    Sep 27, 2008 12:52 PM GMT
    cat
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    Sep 27, 2008 1:38 PM GMT
    TLDR!
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    Sep 27, 2008 2:29 PM GMT
    I dunno, sometimes this analyzing stuff sounds to me like going around in circles and chasing our tails. All I know is that I like to smile, and welcome opportunities to do it. And that people around me will be more likely to smile back, which makes me happier still.
  • UFJocknerd

    Posts: 392

    Sep 27, 2008 2:46 PM GMT
    On a superficial level of "just smiling," yes it doesn't make much sense. But that's based on a sort of interpretation of the perspective that is itself superficial. It's not really about "just smiling," and acting in a way that's incongruent with your inner state, but changing your inner state itself.

    Most really foul moods are created by our cognitions about the situation. In your customer example, we can see this in that some people will react with extreme negativity to a customer they hate, while others will have no such reaction. So, same stimulus, different responses. This means there's a different intervening variable. That would be the belief system, or cognitions, or "inner state." If those cognitions or states are driven by absurd beliefs (e.g. "the customer is a foul person for not being nice to me!" or "everyone should be nice to everyone else! The customer isn't, so I'll just be foul right back!"), then this drives the negative moods that follow.

    A lot of people think that their beliefs can't make them happy. I think that's weird, since for those people usually their beliefs do a pretty good job of making them miserable.
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    Sep 27, 2008 2:54 PM GMT


    Jake, whatever HR dept you're dealing with is nutty to say the least.

    Doug here; I come from a long background in customer service both doing the job and teaching it, and what I'd tell new people is that when you smile (this was call centre stuff where customers couldn't see you) it made your co-workers feel a little more 'up'. It was also reflective of what you were being paid to do. It also had this effect: when you smile, it comes through in your voice.

    Of course, one can smile with delicious irony and in the most acrid of ways, which helps distance you from the most acrimonious of callers and their drama.

    We never told trainees that smiling would change the way they felt inside. That's just twisted. I'd say that would induce the 'crying/weeping/angry clown' which is downright creepy.

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    Sep 27, 2008 4:50 PM GMT
    Well, as an assistant director I try to keep a smile on at all times because people tend to worry when the assistant director looks worried because it usually means something is going wrong. Also since as an AD you have to go around telling people to hurry up and/or do stuff, it helps to be seen as a friendly face and not a grouch.
  • gis981

    Posts: 1

    Sep 27, 2008 5:31 PM GMT
    So, simply put.... a true smile always uplifts those around you. To see someone who is truly happy, makes those around them happy.

    However, our little case study has a flaw, a smile isn't just a smile. Every dynamic of a smile rates whether or not you are happy with that smile. There are those smiles that people put on that you know their in a bad mood, there "inner state" is screaming to come out.

    I don't see the statement of "If you smile, then you will be happy" as an absolute. I have to say that a true smile, the kind that I find the statement to speak of is only possible if you want to change your "inner state." Its all about the decision to do it, not the simple stamp of a smile, but the desire to be happy.
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    Sep 27, 2008 5:33 PM GMT
    I remember Malcolm Gladwell explaining this, but I don't remember the studies he cited.

    In his layman's explanation, people were told to make specific facial expressions. Those people ended up matching the emotions/feelings that typically are mapped to those facial expressions. The point being that forcing an expression can change emotions without any other conscious effort.

    I'm not sure this matches your contention, though.
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    Sep 27, 2008 5:49 PM GMT
    Yeah, I think a good smile starts with a good feeling from INSIDE. There are many techniques for creating "good feelings"
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    Sep 27, 2008 7:31 PM GMT



    It is always better to look good than to feel good.icon_cool.gif
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    Sep 27, 2008 7:50 PM GMT
    Red_Vespa saidI dunno, sometimes this analyzing stuff sounds to me like going around in circles and chasing our tails. All I know is that I like to smile, and welcome opportunities to do it. And that people around me will be more likely to smile back, which makes me happier still.


    Maybe you're the only one who can't analyze it. ;) There's nothing circular or complicated about my argument. And you are correct with your theory. However it's not the only outcome of behavior vs attitude dissonance. And if you smile at me I'll just walk by you and scoff "they just pay you to smile." I've said it a couple times and the employee sometimes admits it.


    meninlove said
    Doug here; I come from a long background in customer service both doing the job and teaching it, and what I'd tell new people is that when you smile (this was call centre stuff where customers couldn't see you) it made your co-workers feel a little more 'up'. It was also reflective of what you were being paid to do. It also had this effect: when you smile, it comes through in your voice.


    What makes you think a forced smile helps others out? I can tell the difference between a fake and real smile and when I get a fake customer service smile I usually call them out (and they end up laughing because I've just explained to them how they really feel).

    When you smile, it only makes your customers feel up when you are GENUINE. If you are not in the mood to smile, don't create a superficial facial expression because you're abusing this theory now.


    UFJocknerd saidOn a superficial level of "just smiling," yes it doesn't make much sense. But that's based on a sort of interpretation of the perspective that is itself superficial. It's not really about "just smiling," and acting in a way that's incongruent with your inner state, but changing your inner state itself.

    Most really foul moods are created by our cognitions about the situation. In your customer example, we can see this in that some people will react with extreme negativity to a customer they hate, while others will have no such reaction. So, same stimulus, different responses. This means there's a different intervening variable. That would be the belief system, or cognitions, or "inner state." If those cognitions or states are driven by absurd beliefs (e.g. "the customer is a foul person for not being nice to me!" or "everyone should be nice to everyone else! The customer isn't, so I'll just be foul right back!"), then this drives the negative moods that follow.


    This can be true. However the act of smiling doesn't always change your inner state. The reasons for smiling can be trivial compared to the reasons of your inner state.

    Also, you are not incorrect, but I think many foul moods can also be resolved by changing your mood to allow you to act how you feel, process all those chemicals, and then feel healthy and stable. For example, if I want to cry, I'm not going to remain happy with the bitch on the phone that tells me my phone bill is $400. I'm going to cry.

    Lastly, I'm not advocating to unconditionally perpetuate negativity, especially knowing how easy it is to reciprocate negative behaviors back at someone who started the trend. However, I am advocating that sometimes I think it's right to show your negative emotions.


    muchmorethanmuscle saidBut seriously, if you're on the rag stay home. If you work in a social setting if you're not in a good mood and it shows on your face it's off putting. Happier people working together are more productive. Making an effort to smile even if you're not happy does make a difference to others. Maybe it won't make you feel happier but I know very well of the dynamics when I'm not happy (and when it's obvious by my facial expressions) how it creates an undesirable dynamic with myself and others within the same environment. It's behooving to maintain a professional attitude, one which exudes contentment, in a professional setting and in social settings.

    This applies to social settings as well. If you're in a club and you look like some sour puss bitch who's gonna wanna talk to you?


    I wasn't thinking of cases where the person is in a globally utter bad mood. But if they hold a negative emotion to just show it. I yell at my boss when I have problems and he takes it. He's from New York though so it's a completely set of behavioral rules than the West Coast.

    Making an effort to smile can make a difference to others but how do you really feel on the inside? I just cyber smiled at you and in fact I hate you even more now. So I just cyber frowned at you. But now I feel good on the inside because I've just told you I hate you and cyber frowned at you. I was honest with how I felt on the inside. So maybe frowning works like smiling especially when I care about tending to my emotions and not yours. icon_eek.gificon_lol.gif


    JHargraves saidI think I would feel better if I ripped someones head off than kept my normal smile icon_smile.gif


    Atta gurl!
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    Sep 28, 2008 1:29 AM GMT

    Hey Jake,

    Not once have I said anything about smiling or not at a customer.

    icon_question.gif

    you said, "So maybe frowning works like smiling especially when I care about tending to my emotions and not yours." in reply to muchmorethanmuscle.

    ....and yet, when I tend to another's emotions I feel better about myself; that I am able to put myself aside for another.
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    Sep 28, 2008 2:46 AM GMT
    muchmorethanmuscle saidsmile-bitch.gif

    I AGREE...
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    Sep 28, 2008 2:57 AM GMT
    meninlove said
    Hey Jake,

    Not once have I said anything about smiling or not at a customer.

    icon_question.gif

    you said, "So maybe frowning works like smiling especially when I care about tending to my emotions and not yours." in reply to muchmorethanmuscle.

    ....and yet, when I tend to another's emotions I feel better about myself; that I am able to put myself aside for another. [/quote]


    Thorry gurl fwend. I miss-read. My bad. Either way whether it's a fake smile at a customer or another co-worker, unless they're dense (like almost everyone here in LA), they won't fall for your fake smile.

    And that's great that you tend to others' emotions. Guess what? I do too. But I'm not going to pretend I care about someone when I don't, especially at work. I get the job done. I don't have to make people feel happy by stroking their egos. I'll smile when I feel like it. =)



    workingman said
    muchmorethanmuscle saidsmile-bitch.gif

    I AGREE...


    UGH! You hippies disgust me.icon_mad.gif
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    Sep 28, 2008 3:21 AM GMT

    ...and if you look back on these posts, Jake, you'll see I said,
    "Of course, one can smile with delicious irony and in the most acrid of ways, which helps distance you from the most acrimonious of callers and their drama.

    We never told trainees that smiling would change the way they felt inside. That's just twisted. I'd say that would induce the 'crying/weeping/angry clown' which is downright creepy."

    ... we did tell new people that smiles came from inside. If you feel good you'll smile. So, how could we help you feel good? Most people felt good and then smiled because we cared how they felt.


    There was no "wear a smile and you'll be happy." Apologies if I somehow led you to believe that.
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    Sep 28, 2008 4:19 AM GMT
    meninlove said
    ow they felt.

    There was no "wear a smile and you'll be happy." Apologies if we somehow led you to believe that.


    This might be a good read. It goes back to jakebenson's claim of being able to tell a fake smile from a genuine one--there are actually different muscles used in the face. It's not too technical (otherwise I wouldn't have read it).
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    Sep 29, 2008 7:48 AM GMT
    1969er said
    meninlove said
    ow they felt.

    There was no "wear a smile and you'll be happy." Apologies if we somehow led you to believe that.


    This might be a good read. It goes back to jakebenson's claim of being able to tell a fake smile from a genuine one--there are actually different muscles used in the face. It's not too technical (otherwise I wouldn't have read it).


    Yep. In many cases the muscles around the eyes don't flex during a fabricated smile.
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    Nov 01, 2008 1:31 AM GMT
    jakebenson saidI hate this statement sooooooo much because it's only partially true:

    "If you smile then you feel good on the inside."


    I think what can really be said is that if you feel good on the inside, it shows whether you smile or not.