During the Iraq War, Lt. Col. Chris Hughes commanded a unit that described itself as “a rapidly deployable battalion that is lethal, ruthless, violent and feared in combat.” However on April 3, 2003, Hughes also showed the power of restraint.
He and his heavily-armed soldiers were walking through the streets of Najaf, Iraq when a group of Iraqi men blocked the road and began shouting in Arabic. The small crowd quickly grew into hundreds of confused and angry men. Someone in the crowd threw a rock, and then another. Hughes later said, “If somebody had shot a round in the air, there would have been a massacre.”
Instead, he ordered his troops, “Smile!” “Don’t point your weapons at them. Take a knee. Relax!” For several tense minutes, the men stayed on one knee with their rifles pointed at the ground, and smiled.
The Iraqis soon realized the soldiers were not there to harm anyone. The shouting stopped and the crowd relaxed. A few men in the crowd also smiled and patted the Americans on the back.
By smiling, you and your staff can create more productive encounters as well.
Five Ways to Use the Power of Your Smile
1. You Create a Better First Impression
As consultants, we are amazed at how often we are ignored when we walk into practices. Up to half of all receptionists do not look up at us with a smile. And it’s not just because we wear business clothes.
As we wait, we observe established patients and new patients also being treated with disrespect.
Yet with a simple smile, visitors relax. They feel welcomed and safe. They feel less stress.
2. You Boost the Mood of the Practice
Smiles are contagious. If you smile, most people cannot help but smile back. It makes them feel a bit happier. For example, if a grumpy patient gets a smile from three staff members before he sees the doctor, he will be in a better mood and his visit will go much better.
If you are stone-faced, no one feels happier around you. You support people’s bad moods.
3. Your People Skills Improve
If you smile, you think of better responses. For example a patient complains, “This sheet says I’m Ms. Jones. I’m not Ms. Jones, I’m Mrs. Jones!”
If you do not smile, you might say, “The computer uses Ms. for all female patients. That’s just how it is.”
If you smile, you say, “That darn computer! It uses Ms. for all females. I’m sorry about that!”
4. You Feel Happier and Look More Attractive
Here’s another test. While looking in a mirror, try to smile while holding a pencil between your lips. How do you look? How do you feel?
Now hold the pen or pencil between your teeth and smile. How do you look? How do you feel?
If nothing else, you can enjoy how silly you look.
5. You Earn Cooperation
If you are gruff and unsmiling, people are less willing to do as you say. Test this by saying these words with a stone face. “You can sit right there.” Now say the same thing while smiling.
While your smile might never diffuse a deadly situation, it will certainly make you more successful.