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Smiling Often Does Not Necessarily Bring Happiness, Here’s What To Do Instead

Smiling Often Does Not Necessarily Bring Happiness, Here’s What To Do Instead

A few years ago, a small movement was started where people came together in groups to practice smiling and laughing. You may have seen or read about it at the time. The reason these groups came to be was because it was thought that laughing and smiling would make people feel better and happier.

Did it work? Does smiling make you happy? One study suggests it may not have worked; that forcing yourself to smile and laugh could have the opposite effect on your happiness.

This study found that forcing a smile when you are feeling bad, can make you feel even worse about your situation — the smile is a reminder that you aren’t really happy. The “fake it til you make it” approach just doesn’t work for many people when it comes to happiness. There has to be a better way, and there is. Instead of forcing a smile, consider these suggestions.

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1. Be Honest With Yourself

If you are going through a hard time right now, the only way out is to deal with it, and the first step is to be honest with yourself about it. Many times, we try to deceive not only the people around us, but also ourselves. Give yourself permission to own how you are really feeling. If you know that forcing a smile is going to hurt more than it helps, don’t force it. It is OK if you don’t smile every moment!

2. Be Honest With Others

How many times do you answer the question, “How are you?” with “I’m fine,” or “Good.” How many times are you not feeling fine or good when you say that you are? Maybe it’s time to be honest with your answers to that dreaded question.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you give the cashier at McDonald’s your life story; sometimes it is necessary to smile and say “I’m fine” because being honest with others doesn’t mean opening up to everyone. Choose specific people in your life, who you trust, and tell them how you really feel. Tell them that you are tired of faking a smile, and tired of pretending to be OK when you really aren’t.

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When these people ask how you are, tell them the truth. The world needs more truth tellers because there isn’t one person on this earth who has not put on a plastic smile and pretended everything is OK when it really wasn’t. Not everyone will understand what you are going through, but they will understand how it feels to “fake it.” We have ALL been there!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help

There is never, never, never any shame in getting help when it is needed. Therapy, counselling, or sometimes even just talking it out with a good friend can help immensely. A good counselor will help you deal with the problem and give you the tools you need to find your smile again — the real smile, not the fake one!

This usually means work on your part — there are no magic words to make you feel better, but there are things you can do to change the way you think or view a situation in your life, and ways to correct certain issues that cause unhappiness. If you go and get help, remember to put into practice the suggestions given to you.

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4. Try a Real Smile on for Size

Whatever your situation is right now, whatever the cause of your fake smiles, there are still opportunities for your real smile to show itself. Think about what makes you happy. If you cannot think of anything, go a little farther back and think about the simple things that used to bring a smile to your face.

It could be something as simple as watching your dog play at the park, or listening to your favorite song. Or it could be something like sharing a good cup of coffee with a friend. Whatever it is, revisit those moments in your life that made you smile for real.

Go back and try it again. While that study proved that faking a smile doesn’t bring happiness, it did prove that when you are happy, you will smile. Go back to what makes you happy, and you will find yourself smiling again.

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(Please note that this article does not mention depression — this is an illness to be taken seriously, and needs to be treated by a professional. The advice given in this last paragraph will not help anyone who is severely depressed.)

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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