A good friend of mine had just started as minister in a congregation. The widow of the previous minister, who had been at that church for 30 years, was still attending the congregation. At coffee the first week George and his wife, Hannah, were there, the widow took Hannah aside and said to her, “The secret to acceptance in this congregation is to just smile!”
What a great piece of sage and seasoned advice – “Just smile!”
When I heard that story recently, I couldn’t help myself. I started to work out an acronym for SMILE that pointed to the elements that flow into this simple act and enables it, time after time, to work so well in connecting with people and contributing to the community’s wellbeing.
So, here it is to play with – Sincere, Magnetic, Infectious, Listening, Encouraging.
· Sincere has to do with the intention that lies deep in your soul – take a couple of breaths to connect with the instinct that knows we are all connected with each other and designed to contribute to each other’s wellbeing – that where the best of smiles originate
· Magnetic has to do with the power of the a sincere smile – it sets up a force field of attraction, inviting the other person into common space where mutual benefit is likely – be prepared to draw people into your circle of influence in ways that will change your lives.
· Infectious has to do with the fact that smiles beget smiles – neuroscientists call it ‘mirroring’ – what you do initiates a similar response in another – sincere smiles that attract others onto common ground become contagious and spread joy rapidly.
· Listening has to do with the fact that you can’t really talk while you’re smiling like the two girls in the picture – your focus is on the other – smiling is a good posture to assume when listening and sincerely respecting what the other is saying – smile, listen, then converse.
· Encouraging has to do with what your smiles accomplish, with the impact they have – they let other people know that you want to connect, to collaborate, to contribute – they create a bond of companionship that breaks through the isolation and loneliness that too often characterizes relationships these days.
To ‘just smile’ in this way is not easy. It takes intention. It takes planning. It takes practice. It takes constant learning, one smile after another. But it is a crucial component of connecting in a community that makes a positive difference in the world, be it a church, a family, a not-for-profit organization, or a workplace.
Next time you are getting ready to enter a room where you want to have a positive influence, think of the kids in this picture, remember the SMILE acronym, and beam your brilliance as you step in.
Brian Fraser is lead provocateur of Jazzthink and minister with Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby, BC. He works primarily with not-for-profit staffs and boards convening COOL conversations for SMARTer leadership. You can find out more at www.jazzthink.com and www.brentwoodpc.ca.
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, The Spiriitual View, HERE