What’s in a Smile?

Young Man and a Young Boy (6-7) Looking at Each Other Laughing --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

In a split second, are you able to determine the emotional state of the person across from you? Some researchers say you can, and being able to do this can increase your social intelligence — that ability to, in the moment, to be aware of others’ emotions and use that information to manage your relationships.

Remember the relationship god Nick Marshall became in the movie What Women Want when he suddenly could hear what others were thinking? Just imagine how much more effective we could be in leading our teams and inspiring our co-workers if we knew exactly what they were feeling!

As we connect with others, we tend to emotionally mirror — that unconscious reaction that happens in a split second when our inferior frontal gyrus recognizes someone’s facial expression and tells us to mimic it. When they smile, we smile. When they frown, we frown. And it’s this mirroring that can help us better tune into others’ emotions.

“A pair of US psychologists in 2011 found people who used botox, a popular anti-wrinkle treatment that freezes muscles, were less able to judge others’ emotions compared to subjects who only used dermal fillers (which plump the skin rather than freeze it). “

Interesting, huh? Apparently not being able to mirror interrupts vital emotional brain signals necessary to correctly interpret emotions.

Apart from mirroring, there are many competencies of social intelligence that we can develop and strengthen to better read how others are feeling. Which skills from this list, if developed, would be most helpful to you in navigating your relationships at the office?

  • empathy
  • situational awareness
  • service orientation
  • communication
  • interpersonal effectiveness
  • powerful influencing skills
  • conflict management
  • inspirational leadership
  • catalyzing change
  • building bonds
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • coaching and mentoring others
  • building trust

Just being aware of your strengths and weaknesses in these areas can give you a good start down the road of behavior change — and tuning in to how your teammates are feeling. Read more of this interesting article by Belinda Smith here:  Why smiles and frowns are contagious

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