The Secret to Making People Smile
by Matt Hatson
The principle behind OneKindAct is that you take the time to do something for someone else, to make them feel better. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic, expensive or overly ambitious, and for me being able to make someone else smile is not only a great gift to others but one you yourself benefit from. I’m sure you know or know someone who knows someone who just seems to lighten the mood when he or she comes in to the room. Perhaps that person seems to have an infectious laugh , tells great jokes or, in many cases, seems to cheer people up and you aren’t so sure why. Well these skills are learnable and here I’ll give you a few insights in to ways that you can be that person, and believe me being able to make people smile is a great personal investment.
What state are you in?
Whatever a person is doing, they are in a state of mind (we’ll call it state), this is akin to a mode of operation for a machine or computer, and our state varies greatly throughout the day. In some cases our state is a conscious decision – perhaps when reading or going out for a run, but for much of the day our state is governed by our unconscious. Yes, that’s right, the part of us that does all of the work. Whilst our conscious mind is busy trying to remember about 7 things at a time, our unconscious mind is busy keeping us breathing, monitoring the surrounding area for threats to our survival, and recording everything you see, hear and feel for processing at some point. It is estimated that the unconscious is remembering about a million things at a time, so it really is the underwater bit to the conscious mind’s tip of the iceberg.
So what you ask? Well the unconscious also processes all of the words you hear and read. When it does so, it has to make sense of them by referring to their meaning in your memory. Many words evoke emotions or have emotions attached to them, and so to make sense of the words it has to access the images, feelings and sounds related to them. These, to a greater or lesser extent, affect your state. Everything you see, hear, feel, taste, touch and a bunch more besides has the potential to affect your state at both unconscious and conscious levels.
Not convinced? Ok try this. Take a deep breath, breathe it out and read the next group of words.
Depressed, anxious, angry, sad, death, pain, sad, lost, crying, hurt, broken.
How do you feel? If you feel any different to how you felt before reading this article then I have changed your state. Hooray for me.
Get up and shake that out. Think for a moment about something fun you are going to do this week.
Now, take another deep breath and breathe it out, then read these words.
Happy, smile, giggle, laughing, love, kindness, hug, friends, joy, delight, grin.
How do you feel now? Any different? For most people they will feel better reading the second set of words because they put you in to a much nicer state (it takes less muscles to smile than frown, and this seems to be the guide for other aspects of our neurophysiology).
And so, to my point. What you say and how you say it can have a dramatic effect on your state and those around you. Being aware that people are in states all the time means that you can influence them. Try it out today – be deliberate with your wording and notice any changes in a person – posture, colouring, breathing rate are easy signals to notice.
However before you set about tackling the office downer, a word of caution. People in down states are often annoyed by people in up states – the greater the difference between your state and their state, the more likely that you will annoy them. There is a way around this, and it’s called:
Pace – lead
If you want to lead someone somewhere you need to know where they are and the route to where you are taking them. To do this you need to know a little of how they are thinking, and this can be done conversationally (by evidencing that you understand their point of view) and physiologically by assuming their posture and \ or breathing rate. If people sense that to some extent your state is similar, they will be more open to being taken to a different pace, so you can gradually move their state using language with more positive meanings, increasing the pitch and speed of conversation. You can then start to smile and crack jokes, and see how they respond. Change state gradually and you can lead people to new states quite easily once you are consciously aware that you can do it.
Underpinning these techniques is an important technique that we have all experienced to some extent, and that is…
In NLP, rapport is defined as when “one person has the attention of the other person’s unconscious”. Returning to my iceberg metaphor – talking only to someone’s conscious is like the tail wagging the dog – remember that the unconscious is doing a whole bunch of stuff that affects a person’s state, so getting its attention is the difference between having one person interested in your presentation compared to an entire lecture theatre hanging on your every word. Whatever state changes you can elicit through someone’s conscious mind can be much, much more effective if the unconscious is listening too.
So what is rapport? NLP books and cheesy sales trainers will tell you that by matching and mirroring a person’s physical posture, movements and words,their unconscious perceives you as similar, so you can more easily influence them. Rapport isn’t about mimicry, it’s about a connection that occurs when two people are really interested in what the other is saying, and in my experience this is best achieved by being genuinely interested in the person. I find that I can tell rapport when it happens by a comfortable warm feeling and a sensation that time has slowed down.
How to be genuinely interested in someone
This takes some practice, obviously there are people that do this naturally, but if you already do this, then you will find it easy to develop even deeper rapport with the people around you.
When you see someone to test this on, take these steps
1. Go quiet on the inside, for some this as easy as a â€œssshâ€ to themselves, or putting their tongue to rest gently on the back of your top front teeth.
2. Allow yourself a little smile, internal or external (or both!)
3. If itâ€™s someone you know, remind yourself what is great about them – why you like them
4. Whether itâ€™s someone you know or not, allow yourself to wonder what is special about them – what learning they have that could enrich your life, what amazing stories to tell, what makes them happy
5. Accept them exactly as they are, when someone doesnâ€™t feel from you a need for them to change, their defenses drop a little
Practice this and quickly you will find your interactions with people to be stronger and deeper, and I personally find that accepting people just as they are significantly drops my own stress levels, and leaves others really enjoying their time with you. Rapport isnâ€™t a mechanism to influence people, itâ€™s the side effect of the dialogue that you get on many levels when you take time to enjoy your encounter with another human being.
So my quick guide to passing on that smile:
1. Be aware of the person’s state
2. Pace their state then lead them to the new state
3. Do it all with rapport
This is the secret to making people smile, which has the side effect of making you feel good and making others want to spend more time in your company. Of course it’s not the only way to do your one kind act of the day, but it’s safe, easy and fun – so why not get practicing today!
About the Author:
Matt Hatson is a founding member of the One Kind Act team and is very passionate about changing the world. He resides in the U.K. where by day he is a highly respected and sought-after Business Advisor. In his spare time, he helps to promote One Kind Act, throughout Europe. He also studies and practices human potential, which is another one of his passions.