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Why we smile?

Smile is infectious.
We feel quite better when somebody smiles at us and we smile in return. Smiling person is loved most than one who presses lips tightly and glares at you. Smile’s magical in human society. It helps in winning people’s hearts and draw sympathy and favor. Smiley and emoticon has become integral part of text messaging and chatting applications around the world.

Why we smile at each other so obviously - without training or compulsion? Answer’s both exciting and bizarre. Let’s understand how we came to know about its origin.

Grimacing monkey
Very few of us might know that our primate cousins (apes and monkeys) also smile at each  other. In their society, smiling has lot to do with social harmony, dominance and survival ultimately. When two primates stand in front of each other or pass along side, they open their mounts slightly so that teeth should get displayed.

By doing this, they make each other feel safe by passing a message, “Don’t scare. I’m not bearing teeth at you. I’m friendly.”. It's only the dominant male in their group who doesn't show his teeth to others. He uses his teeth only to bite and injure his sub-ordinates or rivals to proclaim his superiority or control.

Dr. Paul Ekman
In social situation, direct eye contact made with enlarged eyeballs and pressed lips is a classical sign of threatening or intimidation. If any person is confronting to such kind eye contact made by others for a considerable amount of time, it’s assured that it would result in either running away or retaliation (limbic flight or fight response). Elongated hostile gaze leads to parasympathetic distress and our primate cousins use same strategy smartly. Dominant male gorillas stare with hostile facial expressions to control large group of sub-ordinates and to derogate rebellions or rivals. It's sort of territorial invasion and also invitation to fight.

Thus smiling is comparatively less related with lips and teeth than eye balls and gaze. Orbicular muscles (Orbicularis Occuli) around the eyes unconsciously contract while smiling to convey that an individual is afraid of other person(s). Contracted orbicular muscles helps to protect eyes from possible attack and also reverse the effect of stronger gaze i.e. our eyeballs appear smaller. Separating both lips and turning their corners upward might have evolved to enhance orbicular muscles (Orbicularis Occuli) contraction.
Different facial muscles involved in expressions
Displaying teeth along with fearful gaze creates overall effect of harmless intentions. A thin band of Zomgatic muscles on both side of face arising from Zygomatic bone i.e. near the outer edges of eyebrows and merging into Orbicularis Oris muscles (circular muscles around lips) at both corners of mouth contracts and pulls edges of lips upwards while we smile. Also puffed cheeks due to this pull provides additional protection to eyes.

Smiling or looking at smiling faces associated with Endorphin (a neurotransmitter) secretion so as to induce happy feelings in mind even if smile is genuine or fake. We portray different kinds of smiles for expressing acceptance, approachability, innocence, happiness, friendliness, agreeableness, fondness etc. All these facial expressions are non-threatening for others.

We can portray 43 different kinds of smiles.

[This articled has been translated into Spanish (Espanol) and posted on Club Del Lenguaje No Verbal/Club of Nonverbal Language - a Spanish portal on Body Language and Nonverbal Communication. Post URL:]

Related Articles:
1) Why we wave hands at others? 2) Positive body language 3) Making true friends 4) Woman's courtship (Part 1) 5) Woman's courtship (Part 2) 6) Primary Attraction 7) Why we hug? 8) Genuine Smile 9) Child inside us 10) Importance of Touch 11) Asymmetrical Smile but not Contempt

Making true friends

Friendship is the fathom of familiarity. It’s an invaluable and marvelous treasure that everybody wants to discover throughout lifetime. It enlightens life for once and all. Friendship is a perfect mirror in which one can get glimpse of true nature and meet very potentials through sympathy, mutual confidence, encouragement, co-operation, constructive criticism, idea generation, due appreciation, support and solidarity.

Initiating friendship or acquaintanceship at once is different than retaining and flourishing it further. Many aspects of positive body language can help you to invite persons into friendship but ultimately it’s quite sustainable process of reciprocation and resemblance.

Following are most crucial clues which would help in both finding and making friends you truly deserve:

1) Approach - Approaching to or facing somebody in non-threatening, casual and open-minded manner is the foundation of any relationship. Walk towards or face the others cheerfully and confidently. Do smile, wave hands and strike conversation with any suitable opening line like “Hi”, "Hi There", “Hey”, “How are you doing?”, “What’s up?”, “Nice to see you.”, “How the things are going on?”, “Hope you doing well.” etc.

Shaking hand is very good at initial stage but when familiarity gradually forms then do avoid it. Instead of hand shake, do start touching the person (if socially or gender appropriate) briefly at forearms and shoulders. Don’t cross your arms on chest, entwine them behind your back or put them in pockets, purse or hand bag. Don't shrug shoulders or turn torso away from person. Turning your back suddenly at person is utterly disgraceful.

Even how you look at somebody does convey lot more than actual words pretend. Try to maintain 70-75 % of steady eye contact during face-to-face interaction. Also, avoid standing or sitting on exactly an opposite side of man and side way of woman as much as possible. Comfort level with steady eye contact may vary in different cultures and societies.

When time comes to apart, end conversation with any suitable opening line like “Bye”, “See you.”, "Good Day", "Take Care", “Meet you later.”, “Talk to you later.”, “Best of luck.”, “Nice to see you.” etc. Wave hands, smile and walk away.

2) Active Listening - Just hearing to anybody is absolutely different from listening to it actually. Listening is mentally engaged state that reflects your true interest and attachment towards the other. When somebody’s distressed, despaired or disheartened then he/she really wants other to carefully listen or even synchronize emotionally. Active listening and querying about what other person feels at given moment can strengthen any relationship more rather than giving quick solutions and let emotional intricacies remained unheard. Nod you head in agreement repeatedly while you listen. Conscious mirroring is very good.

3) Expressiveness - Everybody has an equal right of expression and it should be exercised. In friendship, one should encourage other to talk freely about feelings and experiences. It creates very conducive environment. Don’t impose yourself onto others every time. It would compel others to withdraw, frown or irritate. Don’t lean over others or look with contempt. Just sit or stand straight and let others to take their turn. Be curious towards the other while they share.

 4) Reconciliation – Reconciliation is crucial to heal any annoyance, hurt or distress caused by action or behavior from either side. If somebody gets hurt then lean forward, bow your head, put your palm on your heart and simply say “Sorry”, “I feel very sorry” or “Sorry, I hurt you.” from bottom of heart and with very soft voice. Gently touch the other person - grab its hands, touch shoulders or face or give a hug (if socially or gender appropriate). Look at face and try to catch its gaze. Look directly into its eyes and and ask that If he/she could excuse you for whatever you did or gone wrong from you.

 5) Support - It's is the core of any relationship. Everybody of us unconsciously seeks support the way how we grow up by constant attention and care taken by parents during early childhood. If situation allows, put your hands behind shoulder of other person while standing, seating or walking (if socially or gender appropriate). By this, you make other person feel secured by you.

Take every opportunity to congratulate other person. Do genuinely appreciate achievements, performance or appearance. Frequently ask others about their well-being and if you could help them anyway.

6) Reciprocation - Sharing and exchange gives unprecedented joy and feeling of satisfaction. This is very common experience and our society and culture encourages it. Reciprocation makes relationship valuable are worth sustaining. When somebody spends time, intellect and energy to exchange resources, ideas, opinions, information, complements, thoughts and feelings with you then you should duly recognize them and appreciate efforts or intentions of other person. Try to share in return of same from your side as much as possible and whatever appropriate is.

Despite of freedom everybody has to befriend and enjoy great things in life, some limitations and constraints should not be violated. Respect others as an individual first. Take their personal responsibilities and social roles into account. Avoid expecting (an immediate) response from others every time you initiate an exchange. Also, let others know about your inability to meet, talk or exchange if situations and circumstances don’t allow. Don’t make others to feel bother with childish comments and queries.

Avoid excessive touching and intimate boundaries of others (especially member of an opposite gender). Avoid intimate gaze, flirting, suggestive gestures or submissive facial expressions with member of an opposite gender.

Attraction for opposite gender is quite natural and inevitable but thinking it over and over and trying to transform into a romantic relationship may not assure its worthiness and survival over long time.One person may not behave in romantic relationship the way he/she supports & appreciates you as a friendship. Indeed, man and woman can become very best friends forever if they develop good mutual understanding and mind their existing relationship, social responsibilities, goals and aspirations.

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Positive Body Language

It’s quite true that what’s on your mind is manifested by body through movements and actions. Moreover, the way you make your body to move or act definitely shift your feelings, perceptions and thinking. It’s exactly like nutritious - balanced diet, exercise and optimism assuring health, improved immunity and sense of well being.
When it comes to communication, every step or action directly affects on outcome. Communication strongly affects on personal, social and professional relationship and rapport. How effectively and comfortably we can express ourselves is the crux of good communication.

Positive body language can help us to making worthy what we want to convey or communicate to others. It’s not only about how you feel about others but how much you are comfortable and positive with yourself while interacting with others in given situation or environment.

1) Posture: Posture means how you stand or seat in front of the others. It’s directly related to energy, curiosity, acceptability and sense of comfort with any physical - social environment or people around you. If you really want to encourage other to interact with you comfortably, do adopt open posture because it expresses open, attentive and acceptance mode.

Astonishingly, straight and barrier free posture greatly improves grasping.

2) Greeting: Greeting is an inevitable part of human communication. It makes other feel safe with your friendly intentions. Unless you don’t make other notice about your approach or advance towards them, they would hardly take it as safe encounter because they are not prepared for it at any clue. Be polite, enthusiastic, open and compassionate while greeting. 

You can see how most effective leaders or personalities drive surge of overwhelming welcome and good will with greetings.

3) Distance: How close you stand or seat also affects on how others perceive or likely to think about you and accept your exchange. If you meeting first time with any person - group or being introduced to, maintain socially safe and comfortable distance. Social distance or zone might vary in different societies and cultures across the globe.

Do avoid touching to any body parts other than engaging in hand shake (only if it’s a social norm). After getting acquainted with same person, you may enter or let other enter into personal zone at convenience and social norms.

4) Eye contact: Eye contact is the most important aspect of face-to-face interaction. It affects on level of confidence, interest, intimacy, trust and sympathy other cultivate in their minds about you. Do maintain considerably steady eye contact with person you are talking or interacting with. Don't look away or down instantaneously and jerk your neck in front them. Avoid glare or prolonged gaze.

If you are talking to or interacting with more than one person, look at each of them in repetition. Comfort level with steady eye contact might vary in different societies and cultures across the globe.
5) Smile: Smile is powerful tool to help other easily and freely accept your opinion and thoughts. Smile with steady eye contact can bring magical effect during interaction and also invoke interest of other. Smile improves you face value. Avoid continuous and frequent smiling otherwise you would be perceived an emotionally vulnerable, liar or crazy. Exercise genuine, warm and lingering smile.

6) Gestures: Gesturing is truly magical for exemplifying and illustrating. Gesturing can turn dull or discouraging interaction into dazzling deal. Gestures also controls the flow or pace of exchange. They can also convey message or information with greater effect, accuracy and speed that cannot be achieve by words easily. Don’t put your hands into pockets or hold them behind your back; do utilize them for skillful gesturing.

Avoid exaggerated and repetitive gestures or such gestures other may not understand. Align facial expressions and posture with gestures you make. Open palm gestures are ideal for making other feel trustworthy and safe about you.

Most crucial thing above all to remember is that faking doesn't last longer. Reflecting positive body language outside starts with becoming more and more positive from inside.

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