Your smile is used to communicate so much more than happiness! What's behind your smile?  

Have you been faced with a challenge which is scaring the pants off you, only to crack a huge grin as you tackle it? Maybe you have smiled at your opponent as a sign of defiance. Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile appears to follow you around the room and we know that Batmans 'The Joker' isn't smiling out of kindness. 

I have very few photographs of me as a young adult, partly because I was too broke to own a camera and mobile phones weren't around back then. The few pictures I do have show me with a tight lipped closed smile. Our young grandchildren only have to spot a phone for them to smile and say "cheese!" I am sure the 'selfie culture' has made us more aware of our smiles than ever before. Without even thinking about it, we are all looking into a lens and contorting our faces into the expression best suited to our message. 

One of my biggest open mouthed smiles would have been during a risqué adventure, Ok, it was the 70's and didn't we all streak naked across a football pitch at half time? No? Just me then! That joy and sense of freedom released enough dopamine to bring on the broadest grin.

Sadly the football fun faded and life got really tough. The broad grin vanished and I had to practice certain smiles to survive. I used, what I now know is, an affiliative smile for deflecting domestic abuse. It was useful too during meetings for people affected by gambling when some of us in the room were absolutely broken. A smile across the room brought murmurs of allegiance, consolation and support. 

My children always bring on a reward smile as they continually show how cool they are and I'm sure that grandchildren are hardwired to get you by the heartstrings!

There can't be many people in the word who haven't been on the end of a dominance smile. Think some politicians and  some employers.


There are widely thought to be three groups of smile 

The Reward smile sends out positive encouragement. A baby beaming at you will surely win this smile every time! 

The Affiliative smile is a leveller and sends out reassuring bonding signals. "We are in this together." 

The Dominance smile can be confusing. "We are in this together although I am superior to you." 


Finding, understanding and now coaching in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) was a game changer! One of the presuppositions (assumed rules) is that; 

 "You cannot not communicate." 

So whether you are smiling broadly, tight lipped, or any combination of the above, you are communicating something to someone!


Why not try this at home? 

  • Look into a mirror

  • Think of that time when you felt amazing 

  • What are you feeling, hearing, seeing? 

  • You want to recreate that amazing time, yes?

  • What's getting in the way? 

  • What's behind your smile? 

  • What do you want to be behind your smile?


So you see, smiling isn't all about happiness and can conceal the most negative of your emotions. If you are trying to mask your emotions behind a smile, why not weed them out and deal with them?


Fans of grim science may want to explore more about how 19th Century neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne experimented with smiling. His macabre methods led to one of our biggest smiles being his namesake, The Duchenne smile. 

Jules x 


















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