Put Your Best Face Forward

By Stu Dunn

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve opened a local newspaper, viewed a billboard or witnessed a television advertisement and been affronted with a person’s insincere fake smile – or worse – their genuine contempt in the form of a one sided smile. As Connie Stevens said; “Nothing you wear is more important than your smile.” And in making a good impression for your company, products and services, isn’t it worth your while to make the effort with your smile?

A [genuine] smile is the best makeup that any girl can wear

One of the largest proportions of people’s faces to advertising is the real estate industry. We want to see the face of the person who we will trust to sell our homes for us – or whom we wish to purchase from. However – perhaps because these images are in abundance – there are so many that should have left their faces off. The clenched teeth forced smile doesn’t give me the impression of someone who would look after me. The contemptuous smirk image from the sales person who sees people as just a sale rather than a long term customer. The stunned look of someone who looks shocked that their photo was just taken, who then thinks it a great idea to use this image on their marketing material… The list goes on. If you don’t believe me, look to your local newspapers for proof.

Genuine smiles engage the zygomatic major muscle, which resides in the cheeks. This muscle tugs the lips upward, while the orbicularis oculi – the muscle which encircles the eye socket – squeezes the outside corners into the shape of a crow’s foot. Other muscles can simulate a smile, but only the combination of the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi produces the genuine expression of a real smile, called the “Duchenne smile”. The name came from French anatomist Guillaume Duchenne, who studied emotional expression by stimulating various facial muscles with electrical currents. In his 1862 book Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine, Duchenne wrote that the zygomatic major can be willed into action, but that only the “sweet emotions of the soul” forces the orbicularis oculi to contract. “It’s inertia, in smiling,” Duchenne wrote, “unmasks a false friend.”

A natural smile produces wrinkles around the eyes whereas social smiles only engages the mouth

Genuine smiles are generated by the unconscious brain, which means they are automatic. To attempt to fake this process, photographers will ask you to say “Cheese”, as this word pulls back the zygomatic major muscles. This however leaves an insincere looking smile, which is why some of the best portrait photographers will try to make you laugh – creating a sincere smile.

So my advice is, if you are ever going to advertise anything that will include your face, do one of two things: 1) Think of something that will have you laugh a little, chuckle genuinely, and take a few photos so you have a choice. Select the one that looks the most genuine, the most natural. Or… 2) wear a neutral expression if you can’t make a natural genuine smile, or a neutral expression best suits your personality or advertising.

If you’re unsure about an image you have and what message it may portray, feel free to contact us and ask – it’s important that you put your best face forward! And remember what Judith Guest said; “People who keep stiff upper lips find that it’s damn hard to smile.”

About Stu Dunn

With a background in sales and behavioural science, I enjoy learning more about people, behaviour, psychology - which led into motivation - and more recently - sales again. Having started my own real estate company with my wife, it's time to merge interests.
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3 Responses to Put Your Best Face Forward

  1. Kris says:

    There is obviously a bunch to know about this. I think you made some nice points in features also.

  2. Pingback: Seven Universal Expressions | The Blog for Stu Dunn

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