If you’re reading this, then the chances are that you’re interested in growing your career. Like me, you’re probably on a never-ending quest for career and leadership development and spend hours devouring articles, books, podcasts and TED Talks.
And while those things are beneficial, what you might not realize is that you already possess a simple yet profoundly powerful way to instantly improve your career: smiling.
Before you dismiss the power of a smile, consider six reasons why smiling improves your career:
1. It puts others at ease.
It’s tough to get ahead in business if people are always guarded around you. You could be the best at what you do, but if you appear to be angry or intense, people will notice and naturally become defensive and closed off. When you smile, you help others feel more relaxed in your presence. And when people feel comfortable, they’re more receptive to you and your ideas, so you become a more persuasive leader.
2. It makes you magnetic.
People are attracted to those who smile because it signals positivity, which is infectious. Smiling signals that you’re approachable and kind, making you more likable. This means you’ll also have an easier time connecting with others, whether it’s fostering team collaboration or forging a new business partnership.
3. It inspires confidence and trust.
Confidence and smiling go hand-in-hand. When leaders smile, it sends a message that they are capable. Even if you’re not feeling totally confident, smiling, and maintaining a positive attitude can make those around you believe in your abilities and your trustworthiness. A study from Penn State University confirmed this and found that people who smile appear to be more competent.
4. It’s good for you.
One of the surprising benefits of smiling is that it literally affects you at a biological level. When you smile, it instantly activates your brain to release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which improve your mood. Smiling is also a free, drug-free way to relieve stress, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. And when we feel good, we worry less, gain a new perspective, and tend to be more productive.
5. It makes you more creative.
Who knew that smiling could help you cultivate the soft skill most in-demand by employers? The dopamine that’s released when we smile is involved in learning, processing, and decision-making, and allows for heightened creativity related to problem-solving and artistic endeavors. Research shows that higher dopamine levels drive our curiosity and boost creativity.
6. It’s contagious.
You may have noticed that when you smile at someone, they smile back. But research now shows that smiling is truly contagious. When you flash your pearly whites at the office, coworkers pick up on your positive emotions. Mirror neurons fire in their brains and cause them to mimic your actions. In fact, researchers at Sweden’s Uppsala University found that frowning when looking at someone smiling nearly impossible. In this way, the simple act of smiling creates a ripple effect of kindness that spreads throughout an organization.