WATCH YOUR FACE!
As Jim and I came out of our apartment to take Willa, our Golden Retriever, for her run around the reservoir in Central Park, we saw a man, a woman and their dog walking towards us. What was noteworthy was that they each had a "the world is coming to an end and boy, am I ticked off!" scowl on their faces. I'm serious, the dog looked either incredibly annoyed or like he'd lost his best friend... I couldn't tell which. All three of their foreheads were wrinkled up (and the dog wasn’t even a bull dog..) eyes dull, mouths curved downwards. "Wow," did you see that?!" I asked Jim. "Yup," he said, “They all looked alike." Since I always worry about people (and dogs) being "okay," I asked Danny, our doorman (who knows everyone who lives in the area) if "those people" were all right. "Yeah," he said. “that's just the way they look." "But what about the dog?" I asked. "I guess it's catching," Danny said.
So I started looking at people's faces - sitting on the bus, standing on line at Starbuck's or walking into a meeting. I looked at flower sellers, traffic cops, CEO's and news anchors. And not all, but many of them had that worried sick, scowling look. Okay, things "out there" are tough. No question. But not all of it is. And nothing stunts what could be an animated, interesting conversation, encounter, pitch, speech or even a job interview...more than a depressing demeanor. And the thing is, most people, I've discovered, have no idea that they're "wearing" that worried, angry look. "I what?” a woman I coach asked recently, "I scowl?! OMG, I had no idea.."
Some people, I noticed, use a scowl as a sort of "punctuation" in their conversation. They'll say something like, "I've been thinking about next year's budgets (scowl) and I think we need to revisit our business development costs (scowl) which are slightly over last year's" (scowl.) See what happens? The scowl takes it from something worth attending to - to something worth getting worked up about - something we should maybe even blame somebody for... The other day a woman walked up to me at a party and said, scowling hard, "Gail! How are you?" (I wondered if she'd heard some rumor that I was about to be committed...) "Actually, I'm doing just fine, amazingly enough," I answered. "But how are you?" It wasn't nice but I couldn't resist a tiny scowl on the "you.."
Look, I'm not suggesting that we have to smile all the time. In fact, please don't. That can be just as off-putting as a scowl. And maybe even more annoying. Especially if you smile at odd times and for no reason. You know those people: They use a sudden smile like a comma in every single sentence. It might go like this: "Let me tell you about my new business. (smile) I make waterproof costumes for dogs ( smile) who compete in water-jumping contests (smile.)” Now if you wanted to be a good person and help them break their “phony smile” habit, you could say, "I'm sorry, what did you say? I was so caught up in all those smiles of yours that I couldn't hear your words..." And then you could smile suddenly, apropos of absolutely nothing...
So here's the bottom line: Watch your face. Don't let a scowl be part of your daily dress code. And when you smile, make sure it’s genuine, comes from the heart...and the eyes. Willa (sans costume) always puts her ears down when she smiles...and wags her tail. That’s how you know it’s real. Okay, so maybe you can’t do that, but you can ask yourself periodically during the day, “Wait, what’s my face doing right now?” And adjust accordingly!
“He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2013 All Rights Reserved
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