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Being popular isn’t just something we crave in our school years. While we would like to say that we don’t care what others think, most of us are hard-wired with the desire to be liked. Whether it be in the classroom, the office, the bar or anywhere else, it’s no secret that gaining the affection of those around you makes you feel good.
Of course, the way in which we lead our lives depends on our personality, upbringing and countless other factors. Some people are naturally popular, others will make an effort to please their peers while others again will keep to themselves.
But why do some people have an almost magnetic force around them? What if there was one simple trick you could use to become more likeable?
Good news: there is. It’s your smile.
Nailing the first impression
First impressions are snap judgements we make based on a variety of signals. They may not always be 100% accurate, but they are an important part of how we socialise with those around us.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy researched the importance of facial expressions when it comes to first impressions, especially when it comes to assessing a person’s warmth and competence. Smiling is one of the easiest ways to influence someone’s first impression of you, which can have a huge impact on whether or not they like you in the long term.
Forming social bonds
The act of smiling isn’t just a pleasant gesture: it has a physiological effect on the body. When we smile, we experience a rush of endorphins – natural chemicals which reduce stress and give us feelings of happiness.
No one likes a gloomy person who takes everything too seriously. Even if you have a legitimate reason to be sulking, most people will get tired of you pretty quickly. The reason? We draw from the energy of those around us, and anyone who is excessively sullen can become an emotional burden. Conversely, we tend to seek social bonds with those who make us feel good.
Make other people smile
Have you ever noticed that if someone smiles at you, you automatically respond with a smile of your own? This is much more than being polite: it’s a fundamental characteristic of how our brains work.
Marco Iacoboni is a neuroscientist at the University of California, and he has done some fascinating research into mirror neurons. According to Iacoboni, mirror neurons are a special breed of brain cell which interpret the body language of those we interact with. The neurons ‘translate’ signals and can trigger a form of imitation in the process, which explains why we often instinctively smile when we see others doing so.
By spreading your smile to others, you are effectively giving them a feel-good boost that they will subconsciously associate with your company. If you find yourself reluctant to smile on account of yellow or stained teeth, an at-home teeth whitening kit is a simple and affordable way to give you a whiter and brighter smile.