In the past, whenever I was on a dance floor – flaunting my undeniably flashy moves – there would always be some guy coming up to me and asking me if I could please smile a little. This would usually have the opposite effect and result in a vicious glare. Because, apart from it being a cheesy line, it would throw me a little. Couldn’t he see I was enjoying myself?
But, I came to realise he might have a point. My dancing-face was, unfortunately also my ‘default face’, a.k.a. my staring-at-the-computer face, my public-transport-without-a-book-or-phone-face, and most probably, my sitting-on-the-toilet-face. And clearly this was not a smiley happy face.
My mug-shot face
Have you ever seen your own default face? It’s probably not the one you see in the mirror. Most people mold their face a little (a pout, a frown, a smile) when they look at their reflection. (Just pay attention in a public restroom). But íf you’ve ever seen it, (say, when you’re having your passport picture taken, the horror!) it may have given you a little shock.
My face is naturally very flexible, a little rubbery almost. Generally people think it looks friendly. But, if I reveal my default face by slackening all the muscles, dear lord, you’d think I had just been picked up for armed robbery and was having my mug shot taken. All that’s missing is the smeared make-up.
Looking like your cat just died
The facing-jail-time-look just isn’t going to work if you want to be approachable and open to the world, so clearly my default face needed attention. But it’s a bit of a dilemma: on the one hand you don’t want to be (even more) overly conscious about your face, but on the other hand you don’t want to walk around looking like your cat just died. (Unless she did). I see it all the time. Just pay attention and you’ll notice tons of people who look like they’ve just been told Game of Thrones has been cancelled. Permanently. The corners of their mouths drooping, looking unhappy. But they’re probably not unhappy, it’s just their default face.
A little tweak is enough
So how would I go about changing my default face? Put on a constant grin? Hm, instead of looking like my cat just died, I would probably end up looking like I was on prescription drugs. A subtle smirk? Even trickier, you might just look like a twit and not ‘slightly amused & mysterious’ like you anticipated.
I usually opt for just a hint of a smile and not let my mouth completely slacken. Turning up the corners of your mouth, ever so slightly, can make a world of difference. Just a tweak can turn your default face around and make you look friendlier.
But don’t forget your eyes! OK, this sounds like a no-brainer, but it helps if you actually lóók at your surroundings instead of being all wrapped-up inside yourself. Notice where you are walking, see what’s happening around you. Like you’re actually engaged with the world you live in. And next time when you’re packed like a sardine on your commuter train, look at the people who are stuck there with you. I know it’s hard if you’re on the same train day in day out, but who knows what (or who!) you might discover.
Get more smiles!
These days I get a lot a lot more smiles. Albeit mostly from senior citizens. And I get asked for directions often. Seriously, if there’d be statistics of the number of times one is asked for directions, I’d be up there in the ‘rather a lot & more than average’ section. Even in a foreign city, walking around with a tourist guide book, I get stopped by people who are lost. (Pause).. It actually just occurred to me that maybe they just wanted to look at the map in my guide book.
But I do notice a difference in how I’m being approached. And not just by senior citizens. It’s not only that I am more open to my environment, people around me seem more open to me too. It works both ways: seeing happy, (unsually) makes happy. (Unless you díd just find out Games of Thrones got cancelled)
Interested in seeing a lot of default faces? Watch this video by Kyle McDonald who secretly took screenshots of people staring at computer screens in a New York Apple store (and got a visit from the Secret Service with a search warrant as a result)