The Psychology of Smiling at Work

Whether we flash a smile after a coworker tells a story or when we’re first meeting a client, smiling can be a helpful tool for creating connections between people and conveying happiness. However, smiling too much can have the opposite effect and can leave others feeling like you’re not a genuine person. 

Knowing when to smile and when not to is an important skill to have, especially at a time when nonverbal communication is at the heart of how we communicate as we continue to work from home and take meetings virtually. 

Here are a few ways that you can help navigate the dos and don’ts of smiling in the workplace:

  • Avoid appearing insincere: When someone is over-smiling, it can be off-putting to others. In fact, a study showed that people who are perceived to be very happy are more likely to be viewed as naive, which is not something we want people to think of us in the workplace. 
  • You may confuse people from other cultures: Americans tend to smile quite a bit, but that’s not the norm in every country. It’s important to do your research and to keep in mind that not everyone views a smile as a welcoming or warm gesture. 
  • It’s the wrong time for a smile: Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to smile when they’re uncomfortable or unsure of how to act in a situation. This means that we might smile in very inappropriate times like during a difficult conversation with a manager or while firing someone. If it’s a serious or somber occasion, avoid smiling as it can confuse the person on the receiving end. 

To help you understand more about the downsides of smiling at work, Auraglow has created a helpful infographic that details five smile scenarios as well as tips for feeling and looking more confident, which can help you build meaningful connections. 

Psychology of Smiling at Work