A smile is your most powerful tool.

Because we are all humans who live with other humans we need skills that are social.

Some of these skills are seemingly trivial like saying “Good morning.” for example, while others are life changing like “asking for help”.

Today I was in a supermarket at the “do it yourself” checkout when next to me arrived a grubby, little, chubby child imprisoned in a shopping trolley seat. She was all of 18 months old and had a killer smile which she turned on with full on full power after I glanced at her the second time.

Distracted as I was by the need to swipe and bag my oats, noodles and sardines, I failed to glance at her again for a little while, so she tried her new skill out on me…

“Hello.” She said with much concentration.

“Oh... hello.” I replied and laughed.

“Hello, “She giggled “Hello… hello… hello… hello… hello… hello… hello… hello…”

The break in between each “hello” was enough so that she would get eye contact and then she would go again. Mum was smiling and I was laughing. And then a large seriously grumpy man pushed between us to use the middle checkout station.

“Hello…” the toddle tried…

“Why hello!” beamed the grumpy man, melting like a spilled ice cream on a hot pavement.

I left them to it!

What was going on here is an exchange of mirror neurons.

Here’s Dan Ritchie a Dale Carnegie trainer from New York, he explains it way better than I can…

Forget about brand name clothing, fancy cars or a new hairdo.

"A recent study by Orbit gum found 69% of people found women more attractive when they smile rather than when they are wearing make-up. A quick Google search came back with over 8 billion hits for the word smiling! Needless to say, it is an underutilized asset.

Dale Carnegie instinctively knew this when he penned “How to Win Friends & Influence People” more than eighty years ago. Long before we had elaborate scans of the brain and a vast understanding of neuroscience, Mr. Carnegie wrote about the power of a smile.

You see, we have these things called Mirror Neurons.

A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when we act and when we observe the same action performed by another person. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly correlated to smiling.

Try it next time you are at the grocery store checkout line. Look at the cashier and genuinely smile and I bet you will get that smile reflected to you!

Sometimes in a world that is so focused on what NOT to say, we get jaded about what it means to be truly connected to people and we wear a scowl. In fact, there is a 21st century phenomenon called “Resting Bitch Face” that has become a pervasive curse to those who suffer from it.

Resting Bitch Face as defined by the dictionary is a sullen or scowling expression attributed to or unconsciously adopted by a person when in repose. It is my contention that “RBF” is a result of an over connected, overly politicized and overly PC-subconscious mind."

So, what can we do to combat such a phenomenon? Smile!

We can begin by getting our dumb faces out of our smart phones! Look up next time you are at a networking event at the Crest Hollow or in a business meeting and smile from your heart!

We carry with us this simple and universal tool, yet we are so stingy with using it. I promise you that if you choose to smile at your place of business, it will have a net positive effect on the people you surround yourself with. After all, we spend more time with our work families than we sometimes do with our private families.

Six Fun Facts about smiling:

1. Forcing a smile can put you in a good mood

2. Smiles are contagious

3. Smiles relieve stress

4. There are 19 types of smiles

5. Babies start smiling as newborns.

6. It’s the universal sign of happiness

Mr. Carnegie said this… “A smile is nature's best antidote for discouragement. It brings rest to the weary, sunshine to those who are frowning, and hope to those who are hopeless and defeated. A smile is so valuable that it can't be bought, begged, borrowed, or taken away against your will. You have to be willing to give a smile away before it can do anyone else any good. So if someone is too tired or grumpy to flash you a smile, let him have one of yours anyway. Nobody needs a smile as much as the person who has none to give.”

We pay a price for everything we do and everything we don’t do in life, so let’s choose to smile a bit more. Remember, without plans, nothing changes.

When we choose to wear a scowl, we give off the air of cynicism and cynicism locks all the doors.

When we choose to smile, we give off the aroma of optimism and optimism opens doors.

Today, challenge yourself to smile at the very next person you encounter and let the magic begin. We have an ethical responsibility to be a better person today than we were yesterday!

Well said! I particularly like “the aroma of optimism”.

HOWEVER, there is more here than just this interesting well put article!

I believe that what Dan is talking about here is the key to unlocking a host of solutions to many of the behaviour problems that beset our world!

And that is that social skill is developmental.

Hang on I’ll emphasise this a little more…


Why the big letters etc. (I would have put flashing lights and a soundtrack of Wagner with it if I knew how!) because social skills are learned by experience, they are developmentally sensitive and are harder to develop older in life.

Dale Carnegie recognised this in 1936 when he wrote “How to Win Friends & Influence People”.

He needed to write this at that time because there was a generation of adults who grew up through the “Great Depression” when the world was in total poverty that deprived a whole generation of the opportunity to succeed.

In my own family children died, parents lost jobs and my mother and father lost their whole childhood to a crippling need to do nothing but survive. This was compounded during the Second World War which was soon to follow.

Carnegie wrote the book after having huge success with a set of lectures named “How to Win Friends & Influence People” at the YMCA in New York when an eager publisher sent a stenographer to record and type up his lectures and combine them into a book!

It was a raging success.

Why was this so successful? Because social skill is developmental and Carnegie’s wisdom and the target market, which was young, poor men with a huge desire to succeed driven by poverty and deprivation who were ready for a bunch of social skills that they had never had the chance to learn.

“Twelve Things This Book Will Do for You” the book announced in the original 1936 edition as this single page list from Wikipedia which preceded the main content of the book shows. The revised 1981 edition omits points 6 to 8, and 11.

1. Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.

2. Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.

3. Increase your popularity.

4. Help you to win people to your way of thinking.

5. Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.

6. Enable you to win new clients, new customers.

7. Increase your earning power.

8. Make you a better salesman, a better executive.

9. Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.

10. Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.

11. Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.

12. Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.

Who do you know today that could do with some of these?

Interestingly enough I believe that the future of education lies in number 11 that was removed in 1981.

I believe we need to link neuro science (like mirror neurons) to child development and teaching strategies so that we are able to teach children the skills that they need before they ever knew that they needed them.

We know that over 90 percent of students misbehaviours occur because of either an unmet need or an unlearned skill.

Loneliness, Anxiety and Depression are the “global warming” of our worlds future mental health.

Forbes recently reported that “Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally for 15-29 year-olds, and at record breaking levels for students in high-income countries” and that the suicide rate among U.K. students rose by 56% between 2007 and 2016.

What this highlights is the desperate need to teach children who have access to an excess of social media that they are lacking appropriate social interaction and that the answer to their internal battles lies in learning to getting their faces out of their phone and learn how to play in the real world, with real people and learn the social skills that matter.

It means that we have to counter the fear of missing out with the need for reality.

If we start with the end in mind it seems obvious to me that the world’s mental health would be immeasurably improved by making the following five social skills non-negotiable in any institution that teaches our children.

Mutual Respect

No Put Downs

Be Your Best Self

Active Listening

Getting Help

Written down like this they seem so small but embedded in a school community they transform everything. ( I would love to embed them in every legislature, law form and media company in the world!)

In fact I believe that if the whole aim of our society was to model and inculcate our children with these simple skills we would solve well over 90% of the world’s biggest issues.

Apart from these proactive big five “soft skills” we need another set of social skills which are not so pervasive.

These skills need to be taught when needed and they need to taught developmentally.

Can you remember back where I started here, back at the checkout with the toddler in the grip of the trolley seat?

That little cherub’s mirror neurons were switched on, firing and ready to rock. She was totally prepared to learn how to greet new people and learning the power of a big smile and a cheerful hello.

How many parents would have been horrified by a young child greeting an old male stranger in public? How many terrible stories can you find on your phone of paedophiles grooming young children in less than a minute? (I won’t search or I will become a suspect!)

I am not saying that our children cannot be at risk but I honestly believe that our biggest threat to our collective mental health is a paranoid media environment that is scaring the daylights out of our normal developmental interactions.

Which brings me to my final essential point.

We need to identify which are the critical social skills needed for healthy human development, when do we need to teach them and how we can go about this in educational institutions.

My intuition says that much of this will be concentrated on teaching play in all its many forms and will probably require us to turn off the phone, take away the children’s technology and spend more time talking to and playing with our children.

It might require us to let our children interact with a whole range of different “others” in a safe environment.

I know this sounds about as easy as Brexit but it needn’t be.

Let’s face it things change, when I was a child everyone smoked cigarettes, asbestos was a building material, no one wore a seat belt when driving and ice cream was a health food.

Let us try to create “an aroma of optimism” with our nearest and dearest and in our own class at school and win some friends and influence some people by sharing what we learn.

I am going to start by compiling a list of the eighty essential skills that children 10 to 16 need and write a lesson plan for each and I might just put in for a research grant to identify the developmental social skills required for children from birth to 10.

If anyone can teach me the social skill of writing a grant proposal, I would be honoured to learn from you. Maybe you could join us on our Bali Teachers Retreat where I will be presenting!

Yours truly, Greg Mitchell

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