The Art of Not Smiling by Prof. Saurabh Deshpande

The Art of Not Smiling by Prof. Saurabh Deshpande

Smile is perhaps one of evolution’s best gifts to humanity – glowing, sunshine-filled, positive and almost always contagious – spreading happiness to other people around.

Much more can be written in praise of this wholesome bringer of joy. There are formal smiles, and informal smiles; professional smiles and personal smiles. Smiles break ice, bond people and act as a communication continuer. Smiles can even be used strategically to convey a message. Think of the smile of a diplomat or that of a boss.

However, to be fair, one must look at the other side too. Smiles can be negative – they can act as a barrier to communication if used inappropriately or ill-timed. Here are some situations where it is best not to smile, or to restrict one’s smile.

  1. During serious interactions: A wrongly flashed smile can make a serious conversation look trivial. When having a serious conversation – during a meeting, or an interview, or during a presentation, one must learn how to use one’s smile, and if possible, avoid it altogether.
  2. During funerals: Its the most obvious thing to do – even if the deceased person happens to be someone you didn’t like. There can be nothing more disastrous than smiling during funerals. It is plain insulting and annoying – not to mention the gazes of disapproval that you’ll get from those assembled there.
  3. During sympathizing with someone: Our friends, relatives or colleagues may come to us to pour out their sorrow, and expecting you to lend a sympathetic ear. Smiling during such an interaction can be disappointing, demotivating and demoralizing. It is more helpful to put on a straight face and convey that you share the concerns of the person confiding in you.
  4. During examinations: A simple rule of examinations is that the candidates should not communicate with each other in any possible manner whatsoever. Smiling is a strong message of communication, and can mean a variety of things depending on the context. An alert supervisor may take this act of smiling as using unfair means, and disturbing the sanctity of an examination hall.

There are still more situations where smiling needs to be minimized or avoided altogether. Otherwise, yes, it is emotionally healthy to smile – and to reiterate the earlier idea – a smile can really be contagious and spread joy. So keep smiling at the right moments.

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