Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Smile Factor

I live by an adage that was passed on to my by my dad - you can say anything to anybody as long as you are smiling. Think about it - a smile says a lot. If it's a difficult message, a smile says, this might be uncomfortable for you to hear, but you need to know this. If it's a good message, then the smile says - congratulations. Either way, a smile helps the medicine go down, and it will create a lasting impression. My dad is my role model in what I call the smile factor. He is a caring person and that comes across in his eyes, his voice, and his smile. When he has something to say that is important, the way that he delivers the message always comes across with the best intention.

So, what's the return on a smile you ask? There are a couple ways to measure "ROS" -Return on Smile.

Number one, the smile factor can be related to success in business. My dad is the original salesman of all time, spanning 50 years. I always say he can sell anything to anybody and he has. Since the beginning of memory, he has sold everything from milk to life insurance, to photocopiers and real estate. But he's not just any salesman. He is a person who understands and in fact enjoys the human experience and he knows what motivates and moves people to action. But the success is not in the product that he sells. In fact, the experience in working with him is the product. The success is in his own delivery. He uses eye contact. He listens. And he acts with the best intention. He walks away when he should, and he advises his clients when a bad idea is just a bad idea. People trust that every time, and they trust him.

The smile factor has also translates to good health and well being, because it promotes positivity. And positivity is a major factor in fighting the effects of stress and illness.

I would also measure ROS by how well one influences others to take action. Everyday we make decisions and invest time and money into things that help us to achieve a goal or a fulfil a dream. So, it's important to know the difference between caring about people and caring about personal gain. In the course of my sales career in my 20s, I listened to my clients about their hopes, dreams an aspirations for their sleeping infant. I made it a point to know who they were as people, and the names and birthdays of their children so that if I saw them on the street, I could say hello and greet them by name. Then the day came when I stopped thinking about the people and started thinking about commissions. That was the day I ended my scholarship sales career because when that day came, I know that people would know that my best interests were ahead of theirs. So I walked away.

Smiling also builds trust. Throughout my personal and professional life, I have always believed that people are the most important consideration. People deserve to feel appreciated, valued, to be heard, and they need to have a say in their life. Smiling and being pleasant and genuinely interested in people is the best way to create this kind of impression. And it's so simple.

Think about it. Imagine the grumpiest curmudgeon that you can and think about how people react to that person. They tend to walk around these people, giving them a wide birth so as not to disrupt their seemingly grumpy disposition. When encountering a curmudgeon, we tend to keep our eyes down, or we try to politely acknowledge the individual with a quick glance and a corner of the mouth smile. Curmudgeons tend to scare and intimidate people.

Curmudgeonry is not the way to win friends and influence people, my dad would say. No, he would say that everything we do is about creating a lasting impression. So make it a good one. That doesn't mean that one should be a pushover. It means that one should treat others with kindness and respect at all times. No matter what we do in life, we are always selling something to someone. Every step we take, every smile, every action, every reaction creates an impressions and perceptions. Perceptions become reality.

The other thing about smiling and not being a curmudgeon (I love that word), is that people do look you in the eye instead of avoiding eye contact. And eye contact is one of the best ways to read people. Our eyes are the mirror to our thoughts and they seldom lie. I trust someone who looks me in the eye.

So everyday day, I smile. Especially when I don't want to. And when, from time to time that becomes difficult, I try not to inflict my "curmudgeonly" attitude on others. Those are the days that tend to lock myself away from the world to regain perspective. And if I am not smiling, I think about what is dragging me down, and what I need to do to change that so that negativity does not become me.

I try to remember that a smile is the best gift one person can give to another. It is the best way to deliver good news, or something that is going to be more difficult to hear. A smile comes from the heart. It translates a positive message and a lasting impression. It allows for honesty with good intention, and it builds relationships and friendships. So smile, and others will smile back at you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I heard the news today

In this lifetime, there are people that we meet and then there are the people who not only create a lasting impression, but who become the model of what a great and worthy person is. Today I learned that such a person passed away. My friend died after a long battle with cancer which she fought courageously and with dignity. But that is not how she will be remembered. My friend will be remembered for the way she lived - who she was every day with each and every person who was fortunate enough to know her.

I knew Sandra as a professional and she always amazed me with what she could accomplish because she was inspirational and she cared for others. Sandra had a vision and a belief that passion in what we do every day is essential. She lived that vision each day helping people to live their passion. I share Sandra's vision, and I can only hope that at the end of my life, whenever that may be, I will have made a difference to others the way Sandra did for me and so many others.

Even though I did not know Sandra as well personally, I know that she was an authentic person. I know that by the way she smiled with her eyes, by the way she held my hand every time we met, as if passing her love of life and passion onto me and everyone else. Her smile, her touch and the sparkle in her eyes are most memorable to me, because in all the years that I knew her, these things never changed, no matter what was happening in her life. She believed in the potential of each person in each moment. And she made others believe. She made me believe.

I will remember Sandra as my friend and my teacher. Her light will shine on, for a light as bright as hers can only grow brighter each day.