Does your mother-in-law really approve of your applesauce cake, or the fact that with little ones at home you went back to work full time? Want to up the ante on your ability to predict the outcome of an important client meeting or across-the-desk chat with your boss? Can you be sure that your partner is really happy about your weekend plans — or just going along with them?
Understanding the science behind a smile, among other things, has been known to aid savvy lawyers in jury selection by revealing what someone is really thinking — or hiding — and how the verdict could play out if they’re chosen. In her book, Reading People, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who has consulted in many hundreds of jury trials including the infamous O.J. Simpson case, explains the process of understanding people and predicting their behavior, based on many dozens of factors: how someone looks, talks, and acts.
These break down into elements that include facial expressions; geography (where someone hails from — customs and life experience); socio-economic groups; profession; marital status; style of clothes (do they contradict what the person professes to be all about, for example); body language; and so much more. In fact Dimitrius’ people-reading skills are so highly evolved and honed she’s been called “The Seer” by one publication, having pegged, very early on, the behavior of thousands of witnesses, lawyers, jurors, and judges. While her formula is a progressive soup, taking time and practice to master, how can the premise work for you, using the example of a smile, for instance? Have you ever shared some news with someone and while s/he appeared to smile, your instincts told you something just wasn’t right?
Open and honest: According to experts, the most genuine smiles are displayed with mouth wide open — the jaw drops down, and eyes can crinkle and arch like when you’re laughing. Unless someone is an Academy Award-winning actor, chances are this person is genuinely happy to see you, to hear your news, etc.
Tight-lipped smile: Did you just give a friend or coworker some good news about someone you met or a new work assignment or promotion, but the resulting smile isn’t what figured it would be? This could mean s/he’s holding something back — disapproval? Envy? Perhaps s/he knows something more that would serve well in this situation but hasn’t told you?
Half smile: One half of the lips appear to smile; the other is downturned as in a frown. The forehead can wrinkle a bit (up or down). Experts say this can indicate embarrassment, regret, cynicism or even sarcasm.
Smug smile: Lips are generally pressed tightly together with one side going up. The upper lip may rise somewhat. Can imply arrogance or doubt. If upper lip rises, it can be a sign of ridicule. That said, a smug smile is also sometimes used in flirting.
Experts say the difference between a heartfelt smile and a phony one is in the facial muscles. When it comes from deep inside and is earnestly expressed, a set of muscles is employed that are usually not within our control. These may include crinkling eyes and rising cheeks. With a fabricated or “fake” smile, we are in full control. Genuine smiles are also said to last longer — involuntarily. Someone just forcing a smile tends to let go of it faster.
Finally, if you’ve ever taken a second to smile at a stranger — particularly one who appears to be having a bad day — very often s/he will smile back — genuinely! It’s an ice breaker but even if you have no intention of lingering, those on the receiving end have reported it’s made a welcome difference in their outlook. So make this the day you go out and find something or someone to smile about… or at!