Smile While You Work

There’s an old saying that it takes many muscles to frown and only a few to smile. Check out Modern Manners Guy's tips on why you should smile more at work!

Richie Frieman
3-minute read


There’s an old saying that it takes many muscles to frown and only a few to smile. This can’t ring any truer than in an office setting, where the majority of our days are spent upset or stressed about something.

Last week, I did a little research in the hallways of my office as to how many people I see on a regular day and how many of those don’t smile or wave at me (after I initiated the smile/wave combo) in the hallway. I didn’t go out of my way to be in the hallway more than normal, but I did take special notice of the many people I see throughout the week. On average, it’s about 27 people, based on an average of walking the hallway 6 times per day. Now, I work in a very large building with thousands of people, but in my immediate area, there’s not that many.

And what did I learn from this little experiment?

No one smiles!

Why is that? I understand that work is called “work” for a reason, but man, oh man, why the glum face on the way to the water fountain?  Imagine how much easier and more pleasant the day would be if we just smiled to the person walking in our direction, rather than acting like they are invisible?  

The point of this exercise wasn’t to see if I could kick up a full-blown conversation with every single person who passed by. It was to see how many people would simply offer a smile, a wave or a hello in response to my friendly gesture.  Whether I was close friends with them or not wasn’t the issue – I was being universally friendly to anyone I encountered. Even though my little experiment felt like I was back in my bar cruising days of approaching strangers with a “How you doin’?”  nevertheless, I did it to see if I could crack a smile on a coworker’s face regardless of who I saw. Sometimes it worked. Other times it fell very flat…like my bar cruising days. Sigh…

See also: What Is Appropriate Summer Work Attire?

Doing this, I found that when I made an effort to say hello, and had my smile returned, it was actually very satisfying.  As well, when I saw them again during the day, they waved hello each subsequent time.  Now, I have a new friend. That never hurts. When you’re in an office setting, you never know who you’re going to run into down the line – either that week or in your overall career. That’s why it's a good idea to be friendly to everyone – even people you may only see once or twice month. People heavily base their initial opinions of others on their first interactions, so make yours a positive one.

Next time you’re walking in the hallway, just smile and say hello. It takes only three seconds and can really do wonders for the daily outlook of your job (and potentially for your career prospects).

I go into a lot more detail on the crucial first impression in my new book Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It’s now available for pre-order at your favorite online retailers, and will land in bookstores on September 17, 2013.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.