Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bring out the Branson The Selling Power of Smiling

"If you're in a pickle" - SMILE

Recipe website

Sir Richard Branson in Dec 3rd  wrote

“….. In business, a smile can often defuse a difficult situation. If you are negotiating with a tough investor or discussing issues with a customer, a smile will show that you are willing to listen and eager to help. Smiling is infectious, so your smile may have just brightened up the day for many other people too ……

"...Over the years I have become known as the smiley man with the beard. It could be worse!.."

Sir Richard Branson

A city smile

A smiling face can become a city’s brand. Go back to 1983 and Glasgow’s miles better campaign with  Roger Hargreaves ‘Mr Happy' did wonders for raising Glasgow’s profile.

A brand new ( and not so new) smile

Thompson holidays have a smile in their logo on posters TV ads and shop fronts.  The Amazon box delivered to your home has a smile on it , as the Reddit button on your screen,  Mr Megabus on the back of the coach on the road, the Jolly Green Giant on the supermarket shelf.


 From the simplest :-) to the elaborate animated versions, the array of emoticons for emails, texting preent the user with many types of smiles for facebook caht, iphone, skype. etc seems infinite. The power of smile pervades many channels of written, verbal and vocalcommunication.
Withholding a selling  smile
Of all the business news stories of 2012 with a customer service theme that caught my attention, was the news report of the threat in the negotiations between representatives for front line service personnel of the airline Cathay Pacific and their management  ,to  withhold smiling to passengers  as wells as withhold the serving  drinks  and food to on board to passengers and also that they would.

For years those folk who sold over the phone learnt to ‘smile as they dialled’ because it made their voice sound friendlier.

Smiling has also been studied and reported on by those in the field of psychology.

Poker face

  People have known the phrase of a poker face meaning emotionally neutral.  Yet if a poker player with a skilled reputation plays an unskilled one is would probably be best (s)he smiles as a strategy to relax their opponent in order to win money off them.

Status and not smiling

Status affects how readily people return smiles

Differential states of subjective power influence spontaneous facial mimicry =  Evan W Carr and others

The results suggest that subjective states of high-power and low-power can have fundamental impacts on emotional awareness and perception, which are evident in nonverbal behaviours such as mimicry. The current study spurs interesting and immediately applicable questions for research in emotion, relationships, and social hierarchies. E. W. CARR, P. WINKIELMAN, C. OVEIS;

UCSD, LA JOLLA, CA October 15th 2012 Neuroscience 2012

Subjects were shown videos of people they were told held a high-ranking position, like a physician, or a low-ranking job, like a fast-food restaurant worker.

He recorded the involuntary movements of muscles involved in smiling as they watched the videos, millisecond by millisecond.

Whether or not someone unconsciously mimics the facial expressions of another—such as by returning a smile—appeared to depend, in part, on how powerful the mimic feels, and the status of the person they are "mirroring," he found.

The researchers found that when people felt they were powerful themselves, they would rarely return a high-ranking person's smile, automatically suppressing the tendency to mimic an engaging grin, the researchers found.

"You might be feeling more competitive," Mr. Carr said.

Those who felt more powerless, however, automatically mimicked everyone else's smile, regardless of rank.

"Your feelings about power and status seem to dictate how much you are willing to return a smile to another person," Mr. Carr said. "We are really able to act as a human chameleon and react to these social situations without really being aware of doing it
This "boss effect" can vary by national culture. Chinese workers reacted fastest to a picture of their direct supervisor—but only if the boss had the power to give them a negative job evaluation, according to a study last year by Dr. Liew and colleagues at the University of Southern California and Peking University.
Related links:

Robert Lee Hotz ( Wall Street Journal) at

Ron Gutman TED Talk The hidden power of Smiling

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