Has a stranger ever done something that made your whole day look brighter? Perhaps they opened the door at the bank for you or let you go ahead of them in the queue? Remember how good it made you feel?
Making someone smile and brightening their day is one of the most generous things you can do. It has a ripple effect that touches the whole community; if you are nice to someone it is likely they will be nice to someone as well. In this post I want to show you some simple ways to make someone smile today.
Why bother trying to make people smile?
As I said in the opening paragraph the act of making someone smile touches the entire community. Try to think back to when someone last did something that made you smile or brightened your day? Do you remember how it made you feel happy and less stressed? Do you remember how it allowed you to be more friendly with your workmates, friends and family? A simple smile or friendly gesture by that stranger had an effect on your whole world, even if only for a few hours. It rippled through the people in your life. Quite amazing when you think about it.
So we know that making someone smile can change the whole community. But what else can it do? Why else should we bother trying to make people smile? Well there are a lot of reasons actually.
Firstly, it makes you feel good about yourself. When you make someone happy you really feel like you have done something good. So making other people happy makes you happier. Secondly, it is healthy. If you smile at someone and make them smile you are actively causing chemicals to be released in to your body that battle stress and cause feelings of joy. This is good. Making other people smile benefits both yourself and others.
Why is it generous?
As I said before, making someone smile is one of the most generous things you can do. The reason for this is simple: when you smile at someone or brighten their day you give something of yourself. You are putting aside your own selfish needs and wants for a moment to make someone else feel good.
And this is extremely generous.
Think about a man opening the door for a lady. This practice is about manners and being a gentleman but it is also about generosity. You are doing something for someone because it helps them. It is a small act but it can change someone’s entire day. In fact, it might change someone’s entire perceptions! Imagine if the lady you opened the door for felt badly about men. She may have had a few bad experiences with men lately and decided that they were all jerks. But you just opened the door for her. Now her mind might shift. It might not shift entirely but it might open up a little bit to the possibility that maybe there are some good men out there.
Making someone else smile or brightening their day is all about putting them before you. When you engage in this type or practice (and it is a practice) you also develop positive qualities in your mind like patience and kindness. But the main quality that you will develop is generosity. If you go out everyday and try to make the people around you smile you will develop the inner qualities of a very generous person. This is one of the most respectable and admirable qualities a person can posses.
11 ways to make someone smile and brighten their whole day
Here are some simple and easy ways to make the people around you smile or brighten their day. They are small acts that have big effects.
1. Smile first
The easiest and possibly the most effective way to get someone to smile is to smile at them first. People don’t seem to do this anymore. I remember when I was a kid walking through the park with my family and everyone would smile at each other and say hello. Now people sort of just power walk through the park and avert their eyes when they get near you. Perhaps it is because we have so much more fear now. I don’t know. But what I do know is that if you smile at someone first they will almost always smile back and walk away feeling happier.
2. Be chivalrous
Chivalry is a term dating back to the medieval knights and their values of honor, courtesy and good manners. It is a very simple practice where you endeavor to behave in a kind and courteous way to the people around you and especially to members of the opposite sex. A typical example would be holding the door open for someone or standing up to greet someone when they meet you for lunch. Again, it is easy to do but makes people feel really good.
3. Be self deprecating
Self deprecation is one of the best ways to make friends and make people smile. People love it when someone makes self deprecating jokes because it makes them seem less arrogant and more approachable. The best comedians are those who use this style of self deprecation to interact with the audience.
But remember, this is supposed to make people smile, not make them feel sorry for you. Self deprecation is not about going into a bar and telling everyone how shit your life it. It is more about being able to make fun of yourself and take yourself a little less seriously. For example, if you slip over at a restaurant and make a big mess you might make a quick joke like “…it was like that when I got here…” instead of getting all angry and serious and trying to blame someone or something around you. People hate that.
When someone is talking to you listen to them. Don’t just sit there waiting for your turn to talk. Actually listen. This is one of the best ways to make people feel good about themselves.
The classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People talks about how important it is to be genuinely interested in people if you want them to like you. The reason this makes people like you is because it makes them feel good about themselves. The book talks about how people perceive someone as interesting if they sit there and listen to you talk. People don’t care if you arm wrestled Darth Vader on the top of the Egyptian Pyramids – they want you to listen to their stories.
5. Surprise someone
Have you ever brought flowers home for your wife or girlfriend because it was a Wednesday? Not Valentine’s Day that fell on a Wednesday, just because it was Wednesday? Surprising someone for no particular reason other than to make the person smile is a fantastic way to brighten someone’s day.
6. Take on some work
Quite often the reason someone is angry is because of their work. It might be a deadline at the office or it might be the pile of dirty clothes in the laundry. And quite often you can reverse that person’s mood and make them smile by taking on some of their work.
If you have a few spare minutes at the office you might want to volunteer to run some errands for a person who is struggling. Or you might want to do the dishes even though it is not your turn. A little extra work can often really brighten someone’s day.
7. Be humble
I am always shocked at how much a truly humble person can improve my day. Their inner warmth seems to radiate outwards and makes you feel protected and comfortable. Humility is truly a great quality. Let me give you an example:
The other day I went to the shop to buy a coffee and the man serving me was extremely humble. He asked about my day, thanked me for my business and took my money with two hands. I was dressed up in my sharp “business man” clothes and was walking around feeling pretty good about myself. Then I met this humble man and was brought back down to Earth. He was quite old and had obviously had a hard day’s work. But he treated me with respect, as I imagine he does with all his valued customers.
The man’s humility really touched me and reminded me that sharp clothes and big business doesn’t mean anything if you don’t treat people with love and respect. When you are humble you are more likely to treat people well and this makes them smile.
8. Make eye contact
Looking people in the eyes is a good habit to develop. It shows trust and demonstrates that you are truly trying to engage the person. When you show someone that you are trustworthy you make them feel good. This is particularly true of business related meetings. People want to know that they are dealing with a trustworthy person and as such looking someone in the eyes will improve their day.
9. Offer a random compliment
This seems like a pretty obvious thing to do but it actually takes a lot more guts than people think. Compliments are a sure-fire way to make someone smile but quite often they are hard to deliver. It takes bravery.
For example, you might see a beautiful woman who looks sad and depressed. A simple, “your hair looks amazing” would go a long way but it is a pretty daunting thing to do. My advice is to just let it rip without thinking about it too much. If your intentions are to cheer her up then she will usually be receptive. If your intentions are to pick her up then she might not!
10. Ask people their name
My father taught me this trick for business relationships and it is also mentioned in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. People love hearing their name. They love knowing that someone cares enough to remember it. And you can take this theory one step further by actually asking the person what their name is. It is a very powerful tool for cheering people up and making new friends.
Take a look at this video and how Barack Obama asks people their names. This is often a personality trait of a caring and friendly person.
11. Shake hands, hug or physically interact
The final thing I am going to offer is one of the most powerful. It is physical interaction. This is a truly wonderful way to cheer someone up and brighten their day.
Humans are sensual creatures. Their lives are dictated by smells, sights, tastes and sounds. But of all of these senses it seems that the most powerful way to interact with another human is by touch. A shake of the hand or a hug is a big thing because it forces both people to be open to anything. Right at that moment the person you are hugging could stab you in the back and your life would be over. Hugging and touching goes against a lot of our basic survival instincts and that is why, when it is done properly, it is so wonderful.
If you really want to make someone smile give them a hug when you say hello. If you don’t want to hug strangers (I don’t recommend hugging strangers by the way) then shake their hands when you meet them. One person who took this idea to the extreme was the “Free Hugs” guy who eventually was featured on Oprah. This video has had over 32 MILLION views by the way. People must like hugs! Check it out:
I want to say a big “thank you” to anyone who is out there in the world making people smile. It is a truly admirable thing to do. If anyone has any stories about how a simple gesture has made them smile then please leave a comment and let us know. I would love to hear it!
Originally posted on October 31, 2008 @ 3:09 am