Smiles….are you faking it?

Smiles…. are you faking it?

When you open your gifts on Christmas morning, your smile may reveal more about your true feelings than you realise. Smiling can be such a funny business!

Your friends and family may be fooled by that tight lipped smirk or the drop jaw smile on Christmas Day but your happy face is really only skin deep. Most people can’t consciously differentiate between a fake smile and a real one and most of us are content if someone is simply smiling at us – regardless of whether it’s genuine or not.

According to Allan and Barbara Pease, body language experts and authors of the best selling book ‘The Definitive Book of Body Language’, adults smile, on average, 15 times a day, and women do it more than men. But the way we smile can reveal more about us than we think.

First analysed by a French scientist two centuries ago, the smile is controlled by two sets of muscles. The zygomatic muscle pulls the mouth back to expose the teeth –the hallmark of a fake smile – and the orbicularis muscle makes the eyes narrow, causes ‘crows’ feet’ and dips the eyebrows slightly. When you use both muscles you are really smiling!

So don’t just take every grin at face value, let’s take a closer look at four familiar smiles:

The Tight Lipped Smile

This is mainly performed by women for women explains Allan. “It can lack sincerity because the eyes are dead and the mouth is forced upwards slightly, with the lips remaining closed. It says, “I’m not happy but I’m too polite to tell you what I really think and feel.

The owner of this smile is usually secretive. In body language terms, closed lips mean we’re withholding information. Interestingly, it is read by other women as a rejection but men, who in tests are three times worse at decoding subtle body language signals, are totally oblivious to its message!

Politicians and celebrities can be experts at the tight lipped smile. And when men use the tight lipped smile, it says ‘ I’ve got the secrets of success and you must guess what they are’.

People who use this smile often find it difficult to form friendships because they are always holding something back.

The Twisted Smile

There is nothing natural or instinctive about this look – it is always done deliberately. This smile shows opposite emotions on each side of the face. If you placed a mirror

down the middle of the face, you would see two completely different expressions. Allan concedes that there is only message with the twisted smile and that’s sarcasm.

Peculiar to the western world, the twisted smile is a permanent facial feature of United States’ President, George W Bush. Childhood photographs reveal that he has been smiling this way since he was four or five years old and, through repetition, it has now become his natural look.

A twisted smile can be great disadvantage in life. It shows contempt and negativity and others aren’t likely to respond positively to a person with this expression.

The Drop Jaw Smile

Perfected by The Joker in Batman, Bill Clinton and actor Hugh Grant, this is a practised smile used to create happy reactions in others or to win more votes!

Allan describes this as the classic fake smile and it can be easily detected by simply ignoring the mouth and focusing on the eyes. Usually the eyes remain impassive or neutral and there is very little sign of genuine amusement or engagement. It’s the smile for those who aren’t really smiling at all.

Behind this smile could be a person is trying too hard to be jolly and noticed in order to mask a deep insecurity.

The Sideways – Looking Up Smile

This is a real women’s smile. With the head turned down and away while looking up with a tight lipped smile, the owner looks childlike, playful and secretive. This coy smile has been shown to be men’s favourite because when a woman smiles in this way, it stimulates protective male feelings.

The late Princess Diana used this smile to captivate the hearts of people everywhere, making men want to protect her and women want to be like her. Her son, Prince William, uses the same smile just as successfully now and he not only wins affection but reminds people of his mother.

Not surprisingly this sideways smile is a regular in women’s courtships repertoires because men read it as a seduction signal. According to Allan, females are sending the message that they’re vulnerable and easily dominated yet subconsciously they are thinking that ‘when I smile like this, I get what I want’.


Smiling is extremely contagious and, remarkably, when you smile at someone, they will usually reciprocate regardless of whether you are both using fake smiles.

In over 50 years of studying the sales and negotiating process, Allan and Barbara have found that smiling at the appropriate time, such as during the opening stages of a negotiating situation where people are essentially sizing each other up, produces a positive response leading to more successful outcomes and higher sales ratios.

Smile Facts:

  • Ninety percent of the impression you leave on someone is made in the first four minutes so smile!
  • Saying cheese pulls back the zygomatic muscles the same way as a smile but the result can be a fake smile and an insincere looking photograph
  • A natural smile produces chaaracteristic wrinkles around the eyes – insincere people smile only with their mouth
  • A liar’s smile comes more quickly and fades faster than a genuine one. It’s also likely to be stronger on the left side because it’s controlled by the right side of the brain. In real smiles, both brain hemispheres instruct each side of the face to act with symmetry
  • When liars lie, they smile less frequently than those people who are innocent and honest
  • Science has proved that the more you smile, the more positive reactions others will give you
  • By the age of eight weeks, baby girls smile far more than baby boys
  • Women smile far more than men in both social and business situations
  • Research indicates that women need to smile less when dealing with dominant men in business – or mirror the amount of smiling men do- and if men want to be more persuasive with women, they need to smile more in all contexts!

Barbara & Allan Pease

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