If you've come from the hospitality world, you may have heard of the 15/5 rule. When you are within 15 feet of a guest, you are to acknowledge them with eye contact and a smile. Within 5 feet, greet that guest. And I've always been told that a smile was the easiest thing to give, because it doesn't cost a thing. If that's true, why do so many people find it hard to acknowledge others with a smile? Does it really take fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown? And why is it when photographing boys, they often loose the smile? Instead, they feel the need to look tuff.
I would argue that there is a cost in giving a smile - the cost of our vulnerability. When we smile to a stranger there is sometimes a fear of the unknown. Will they misinterpret my smile? Will they reject my smile? So the easier thing to do, at times, is to show indifference. With technology today, I would argue that the one thing we need most is feeling significant. With texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc., we all seem to long for face to face interaction with others. And by giving a smile, we may be giving a stranger the most valuable thing that is needed at that very moment. If you're someone that doesn't often smile to strangers, I challenge you to try an experiment. For the next week, try greeting others with an authentic smile and see if your effort makes the difference in just one person's life. You may be surprised. And the next time someone says that a smile doesn't cost anything, agree with them and add that it may be the most valuable thing one can offer.