I have a confession to make: I hate speaking to groups. I hate speaking to any more than two people. If I do, I have nervous flutters and shakings until it’s over. Many classes I managed to escape the dreaded presentation, but some had moments of torture for me (looking at you, sociology and biology). Knowing that I had to do a public speaking class to fulfill my degree requirements only filled me with anxiety. I knew I couldn’t do it. Absolutely wouldn’t be able to survive it (with a passing grade). Shouldn’t do it unless I could get those nervous impulses under control. Wouldn’t, couldn’t shouldn’t – but had to.
I recently (insert appropriate screaming emoji) finished said dreadful class, and you know something? I survived. And what I learned from it was absolutely nothing like what I’d expected. I thought that I would become a better speaker, be able to control my nerves, and learn a little audience psychology along the way. And while I can tick those boxes off of my class expectations list, what’s more important is I also learned that it doesn’t really matter what you say or how you say it – if you’re smiling.
For each presentation (there were 8 total), I focused on smiling while talking (not easy, but possible if practiced enough). Each week after my presentation, my peer reviews would offer a few tips or tricks to help me improve on my speeches, but almost everyone would compliment me on my smile. “You look so happy!” one classmate said. Well, I wasn’t. I was quaking with nervousness inside. But being able to smile in spite of it not only helped my audience to connect with me, it caused them to be more forgiving of my faults and ultimately helped them to perceive me more positively.
Without going too deep, I think it boils down to this: smiling at people is perhaps the best thing we can do for others and for ourselves. A smile imparts kindness, thoughtfulness, and joy (note that I refrain from happiness – this is because it isn’t possible to be happy and sorrowful at the same time. It is possible, however, to have joy and sorrow at the same time). Smiling connects us as humans with one another. It shows interest in others and sparks responses from them. And it’s not just me saying it: scientists have already known this and put it out there to encourage us in smiling behavior.
Smiling is perhaps the greatest nonverbal form of communication we can share with each other. So, join me in an effort to smile more. You’ll feel better, look better, and help others do the same. And who knows? You may even get a good grade out of it.
Until Next Time,