Want To Instantly Improve Your Personal Brand? Smile!

When I was a kid, I had a joke book full of corny gags that, at the time, I thought were wit personified, including:

Q: What did the chick say when it found an orange in the nest?
A: Look what marmalade.

Q: What did the sea say to the shore?
A: Nothing, it just waved.

Q: Why are there no aspirin in the jungle?
A: Because the parrots eat ‘em all.

(I’ll call a surgeon – your sides must be splitting.)

While I doubt those naff jokes raised more than a slight smirk, if I could have got you to do a full-on smile I would have immediately improved your personal brand.

Here’s the science bit…

According to a study by neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, the smile is “the symbol that was rated with the highest positive emotional content. [It] stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.”

That’s why we often feel happier around children – because they smile on average 400 times a day, compared to the average for an adult of 20 times. (Though adults who are perceived as happy smile more, averaging 40 – 50 times a day.)

Plus, it’s a two-way street for both the person giving the smile and the person seeing it – you both get a hit of Dopamine. So even if you’re not happy, making yourself smile sends a signal to your brain that you are, so your brain cheers up, which makes you smile all the more, which makes you even happier. It’s a virtuous circle.

Though getting hits of Dopamine throughout the day should be reward enough for smiling more, it has the added benefit of doing wonders for your personal brand – especially if your approachability needs a boost.

Here’s what I’m talking about…

Before I started my own business, doing what I do now, I used to work in the corporate world, dealing with the media (getting things into the press, keeping things out of the press). It involved a lot of writing and often I’d be at my desk, deep in thought, when my brows would furrow, my eyes would narrow, my lips would purse.

I suffered from what I like to call Bitchy Thinking Face (as opposed to Bitchy Resting Face that you may have also heard of). And although I looked like I was plotting someone’s demise, which made people wary of approaching me, I was in fact scrabbling around in my brain for a word or phrase that would make the copy I was writing really zing off the page.

I didn’t want my personal brand to be that I was unapproachable, so I made the decision to smile more.

Increase your smile quota

I don’t mean I sat at my PC with a permanent grin on my face, so my BTF never made an appearance. However, what I did do was to make the most of the opportunities when I could genuinely smile, the easiest one of which was whenever I made eye contact with someone.

That could be when I looked up from my screen and over at a team-mate, or walked down a corridor and met someone coming the other way, or when I was listening to someone talk in a meeting. A quick lifting of the corners of your mouth is all it takes to get you out of BTF or BRF-mode and into WSF (Welcoming Smiling Face) mode – which will do wonders for your personal brand.

I actually had colleagues say to me that I seemed happier somehow. I wasn’t (I’d already been happy enough) I just made the effort to consciously convey that to others. What’s interesting is, what had started out as a conscious act ended up becoming a subconscious one and I smile at people a lot more than I ever did.

So consider turning up the corners of your mouth more often and improve your personal brand. And to help you do just that, I’ll end with one last joke:

Q: What’s the longest word in the dictionary?
A: Smiles, because there’s a mile between each ‘s’.

Do you suffer from BTF or BRF – or just don’t smile that often? How has it affected your personal brand and how you’re perceived by others? And if it was negatively, did you take any steps to change it? It’d be great if you’d share your thoughts with a comment below. Thanks!

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6 responses to “Want To Instantly Improve Your Personal Brand? Smile!”

  1. Karen Dandy says:

    My favourite blog so far, Jennifer. For three reasons:

    1. I believe in the power of smiles too.

    2. The paracetamol joke has always been my go-to and I tell it to my grown-up daughter regularly, just to hear her groan! 🙂

    3. I am adding that marmalade joke to my repertoire – it’s right up my alley! Thank you for sharing.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      I’m glad you liked the marmalade joke – I trot it out each and every time I grab a jar for my toast

  2. Denis Kaye says:

    Oh dear! I must be beyond redemption as none of your little jokes raised a smile with me. However I agree entirely with your opinion that smiling is an important part of developing rapport and enhancing your personal brand

  3. Nicola Ralston says:

    I’m not so sure about this. Very powerful people, especially men, don’t usually smile much. First, they don’t need to but also smiling can be seen as ingratiating and hence undermining of high status (again, particularly for me). If you don’t believe me, ask yourself whether Rishi Sunak’s constant grinning is good or bad for his brand. I’m all for being courteous and smiling to put people at their ease, but it is possible to overdo it.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      It’s a good point Nicola. It would depend what you want to convey with your personal brand. If ‘powerful’ is more the vibe, smiling may not be the way to go. If ‘approachable’ is, it fits better.

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