Some years ago, The New Yorker had an article about people who commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. About every two weeks, someone jumps from the bridge. The article told of a victim’s psychiatrist who was going through the person’s apartment after he jumped. He found a hand-written note left on the man’s bureau. The note said, “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me, I will not jump.”
I realize a pleasant look may not save a life, but it is a key to influencing others in a positive way. To establish the right image that will attract people, we want to consistently show a pleasant look. Some of you may have had the experience of having a person start a conversation with you and then say, “I can tell this is a bad time; I’ll come back later.” It may not have been a bad time for you, but the comment made you realize that you did not have a look that attracted people. The pleasant look is difficult if you have had a serious issue to resolve and you just finished a heated discussion about it. If there are problems at home, the pleasant look may seem impossible. Some people have a furrowed brow just because they are concentrating, but they give the appearance of being distressed. What can you do consistently to show a pleasant look in spite of circumstances around you?
- Practice different facial expressions in the mirror until you determine one that is pleasant. Then hold that expression for several seconds. Do that each morning to become conscious of demonstrating the right facial expression; you are developing a new habit and new habits take time.
- At the beginning of the day, visualize a pleasant scene that will occur sometime that day or week and concentrate on it. When possible, think about it as you go about your daily routine. The scene might be eating out with your family, playing racquetball with a close friend or whatever scene gives you a good feeling. Whenever an unpleasant thought comes to the forefront, seek to erase it with the positive image in your mind.
- Have a prearranged signal with a close friend to remind you to change expression whenever he or she sees the frown or furrowed-brow look. People want to talk to pleasant people. We look for the person on the street who is smiling. It is easy to talk to a person who is smiling. When a speaker is answering questions after a speech, the person with the pleasant look usually gets to ask the first question.
The pleasant look is a simple act, yet can have dramatic implications for our success in working with people.