Tag Archive for smile

Spread an Emotional Contagion that Builds Relationship

Emotional contagion describes when one person’s emotions and related behaviors trigger similar emotions in another person. Our emotions can trigger other people’s emotions and vice versa because People mimic the facial expressions and body language of other people during social interactions and “catch” their emotions. You have probably experienced the impact of emotional contagion in your family. Someone (mom, dad, teen) comes home in a bad mood and suddenly everyone’s mood takes a turn for the worse. On the other hand, the same person comes home with a smile on their face and a bounce in their step and everyone feels better.

A smile on their face…that reminds me. Ka-shing Woo and Bobbie Chan conducted a study (2019) focusing on the impact of different types of smiles and nodding on warmth and friendliness between people. They found that a fake smile did NOT pass along good feelings. However, a genuine smile did pass along good feelings. They also found that slow, vertical head nodding communicates supportiveness and indicates the listener is paying attention. When the study participants combined a genuine smile with a slow, vertical head nod, they found a “potent emotional contagion” expressing warmth and friendliness that also served as a catalyst for reciprocal feelings of warmth and friendliness. In other words, genuine smiling and attentive nodding spreads warmth and friendliness, it draws people together in positive emotions, it builds intimacy…it is an emotional contagion of warmth and friendliness.

Interesting, isn’t it? A genuine smile combined with a nod of interest conveys a warmth and friendliness that is “catchy.”  Now that is a contagion I would like to spread through my family. That is a contagion I would like to see spread through my family to the community as well. So, let’s start spreading that contagion today. Pass along a genuine smile and a nod of interest every chance you get.

Has This Contagion Infected Your Home?

A contagion may have infected your home. It spreads faster than the flu and the common cold put together. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting vaccines remain ineffective against it. This contagion can spread through your family causing misery, pain, and heartache at a speed that’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers at the University of Florida (_______ Spreads Like a Disease) identified this contagion in a series of three studies.

  • In one study this contagion was caught after being in close proximity to someone who exhibited the symptoms. Once infected, the infected person’s thought life was impacted with the negative associates that led to ill-mannered and impolite behaviors.
  • In a second study, simply witnessing the symptoms of this contagion led to actual infection! The infected person began to interpret other people’s behaviors in a negative light and then respond to people based on those misinterpretations. Uncivilized and insolent behaviors increased as did harsh words and snide, cynical comments.
  • In a third study those interacting with the carrier became infected and, once infected, willingly sought revenge by withholding resources from the original carrier. Even more disturbing, the infected were capable of infecting others for up to a week after a single contact with the disease!

You can understand my concern. A contagion caught by simply witnessing the symptoms, lasts a full week, and effects how we think and act toward others is terrible. It’s practically a mini-zombie virus.

What exactly is this contagion? Rudeness. Rudeness has become epidemic. Twitter feuds, Facebook rants, and on-line opinion broadcasting are all symptomatic of a rudeness contagion spreading faster than the flu. Worse yet, rude behavior has found its way into our homes and our family relationships. Children are rude to parents and parents to children. Spouses spout off with rudeness toward one another. All the while, the epidemic spreads…and worsens…and destroys family relationships. But, there is a cure! We can stop this epidemic before it spreads any further. And you can insulate yourself from its insidious effects with the same intervention. That intervention comes in four parts.

  1. Be polite to one another. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Hold a door open for someone else. Think about your spouse and children first. Show them consideration.
  2. Engage in daily acts of kindness. As well as showing one another politeness, be kind. Do a chore for another family member. Offer to help. Let your spouse or child choose the activity. Bring home a special treat. Show a little kindness every day.
  3. It seems simple, but a smile can change the world. Smiling helps reduce stress (Smile for a Happier Family). It puts other people at ease. Smile.
  4. Make eye contact. A study from the University of Haifa showed that simply maintaining eye contact reduced mean behavior and rudeness (Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility). Look at the one another, especially when you speak.

The cure sounds so simple…but powerful. I’m starting right now. Will you join me?

Smile for a Happier Family

Ever wake up feeling kind of blue and irritated? I have! When someone wakes up in a bad mood, the whole house feels the weight of that mood.  Everyone becomes more cautious and quiet, less carefree.  Smiles become scarce. The whole house seems heavier, tired,

even more depressed and burdened. When days like this occur in your home, I have a solution. Smile!  It’s research supported and fun. So, “if you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while, open your eyes and look at the day. You’ll see things in a different way” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). In fact, research suggests you will see things different. Seeing a 4 millisecond image of a smiling face gives us a “mini emotional high.”  We also perceives the world in a more positive & interesting light after catching just a glance of a smiling face (How Smiling Changes Your Brain). Seeing a smiling face can even make bland drinks seem tastier (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Smiling helps us manage stress more effectively, too (see the LOL-On Safari for the Elusive Smile). When you smile even though waking up blue and irritated, your family learns “you’ll get by if you smile through your fears and sorrow…” (Michael Jackson/Charlie Chaplin in Smile)…no matter how hard the times might get.

Smiling is contagious too. Research suggests that a smile “migrates two degrees.” In other words, when you smile another person in your family will catch the smile and a second person beyond your family will catch the smile as well ( 6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). When you fill your home with smiles, even those who visit will leave smiling because “when you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you…when your laughing the sun comes shining through” (Sing it with the Leftover Cuties).

So, build a happier family. “Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place” (Put a Smile on Your Face by Vitamin C). Go a step further and work to make your spouse and children smile. You can tell them, “All I want to do is make you smile if it takes just a little while” (Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac). You’ll get more than a little while to make them smile too, because those who show partial smiles live 4.9 years longer than those who don’t’ smile and those who smile broadly live 7 years longer (6 Reasons to Smile Right Now). Go ahead, take the time and make your family smile. You’ll be giving your family the gift of life. “When U smile I smile” (U Smile by Justin Bieber)…and live longer. And “when you smile I can face the world…When you smile, I see a ray of light” (When I See You Smile by Bad English).

Enjoy the benefits of smiling in your family. “Make ’em laugh” (A classic from Singing in the Rain). Share a smile.  After all, “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” (You’re Never Fully Dressed in New York).

Relationship Training for Trouble Areas

Family relationships demand an investment of time. You practice the daily routine to strengthen the core muscles of relationship. The exercises noted in “the strength workout” focus on more specific skills and muscles necessary to strengthen relationships–becoming a student of the other person’s non-verbal communications and love language as well as learning to collect moments of emotional connection. Still, trouble areas arise. Areas where you want to develop more definition and long-term character to your relationship physique. Here are a couple of exercises that can help tone those trouble spots and enhance overall relationship strength. You may resist these exercises at first; but, they can truly benefit your family relationships.

The first exercise involves turning criticisms into compliments. It involves three steps.

1) To begin, identify something a family member did today that you found irritating…something you wanted to criticize. Perhaps you wanted to sit down to talk and your wife just had to clean the room instead…or you were trying to get dinner together and your husband was in the way talking about his day. Maybe your child was excitedly talking about something that happened in school while you were having a conversation on the phone with a client. Whatever the case, recall the behavior you found irritating, the behavior you wanted to criticize.

 2) Before you criticize that behavior, step back and look for any aspect of that behavior that you can appreciate. In the examples above, you may love that your wife keeps such a neat home or that your husband really does want to tell you about his day. You can rejoice that your child wants to share their excitement with you, a parent. Take time to personally appreciate that positive aspect of the situation. Enjoy what that means to you and your family.

 3) Finally, use that appreciation to offer that person a compliment. Go to that family member and tell them about the part you appreciate. Praise them for what they did.   Let them know how much it means to you that they exhibit that behavior you appreciate.  

 The second exercise sounds more simple, but can still prove challenging at times. It involves only one motion. That’s right, one single motion…smiling. Let your family see you smile. Smile when you greet family members. Let them see the twinkle of delight in your eyes when they walk into the room. Smiling when family members approach communicates acceptance, approval, and love. Sometimes you may not feel like smiling. You may feel irritated or tired. Practice smiling anyway. Let a smiling face full of delight and love be the first image that comes to mind when your family thinks of you.

The final exercise to build definition and address trouble areas involves lifting logs. This exercise also involves three steps.

1) When you find yourself in an argument with a family member, step back and lift the logs from your own eye instead of attempting to “win” the argument. Before you try to explain, justify, or defend your actions, take a private, honest look at your own motives, goals, and manner of expression. Consider your contribution to the argument. Think about any ways in which you instigate or perpetuate the conflict. Examine any underlying feelings such as fear or insecurity. (Intense anger within a family often hides a fear that the relationship is threatened or a strong desire for security and connection within the relationship.)

2) As you discover your underlying emotions, realize that your family members probably feel the same way. Consider how you can help meet that need in their life, even as you work to resolve a disagreement. (After all, you do love them.)

3) Then, return to the family member, logs removed, and calmly discuss the disagreement. As you can see, this exercise involves a great deal of practice, commitment, and discipline. However, the benefits in relationship development are tremendous.

 These three exercises can help you tone those trouble spots, develop more definition, and produce more long-term character in your relationship physique.