Monday, 10 September 2012

HOW TO BE HUMAN. TODAY'S LESSON: SMILING

WHEN A STRANGER smiles at you
Do you A) Smile back 
B) Yell "HARLOT!"
 C) Put your fingers in your ears 
and hum until she goes away. 
Yeah, you'd think the answer 
would be obvious.
One would think it's a simple concept. Perhaps even a primal reaction. However, I can't help noticing that there are a lot of people out there who don't seem to know how to respond when a stranger smiles at them.

As a compulsive smiler, I can't help but greet you and say "Hello" when I pass you on a sidewalk, in an office building or at the gym. Yet I notice that when I do so, a surprising number of you just stare back at me coldly. 

This peculiar reaction is a bit like a slap in the face. It stings. It throws me off stride. It makes me wish I could retract my scorned pleasantries: "Excuse me, I'll just take that back, thank you. Here, have this frozen scowl instead. Enjoy your day."

But deep down, I don't think you do this on purpose. I think maybe you're just missing the friendly gene. Therefore I should not think mean thoughts about you, I should pity you. And try to help you, my poor gene-addled fellow man.
So let's just turn this into a learning opportunity, shall we?
When someone smiles at you, it is considered rude, even a little odd, frankly, to simply stare back at them as if you are made of stone. Would it kill you to smile back? No, I don't think so.  

Since we've already established that you have a problem reading facial expressions, I have compiled this helpful collection of photos for you to review, below. Practise the correct response in the mirror for 5 to 7 minutes each day and remember this rule: unless the person smiling at you has done something egregious, such as sleep with your husband or slash your tires, you should smile back. It's one of those little niceties that makes the day, and the world, a little kinder.

EXAMPLE A:  
Correct response 
when a friend or 
 stranger smiles 
at you.
EXAMPLE B: 
Incorrect response. 
The only excuse for
ever being seen in 
public with this look 
on your face is if 
you are dyspeptic 
and en route to 
the walk-in clinic.
EXAMPLE C: 
Incorrect response. 
And also unattractive.
You don't want your eyes 
to stay like that, do you?