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Resting Face & The Power of Smile

It takes just a second for people to form a first impression. Seems like an old adage, but it is born out (once again) by new scientific study from New York University. This study revealed that in less than a blink of an eye we make unconscious assessments of others. Researchers in this study monitored the amygdala (emotional center of the brain) of volunteers who were presented with pictures of a variety of human faces. In a mere 33 milliseconds, participants in the study indicated whether they trusted the face (and the person behind it) – a period so short it excluded conscious insight. The study details a variety of factors such as facial structure, expression, eyes, etc. that influence our assessment of them. Although not the focus of the study, we can assume that factors such as gender, race, age, sex, etc. lend weight in these unconscious assessments. There is an evolutionary reason for this human capacity in that it helps us assess if we should approach or avoid a person or social situation. At this point you may be asking – what does this have to do with public speaking and leadership? Much. Let’s explore!

Resting Face

Our “resting face” is the face we make as our default facial expression. Our resting face speaks to our own internal emotional state of being. This is because our face and in our body language often mirror our own internal psychological state. As challenging an idea as it might seem, we can choose to optimize our resting face as an element of our overall presence. As a result, we can improve our trustworthiness, positive presence and our real world outcomes as speakers and leaders.


If we have less than a second to create a favorable impression we should use this time wisely. What can we do as communicators, speakers and leaders is to optimize our positive impressions and outcomes? There is much research into the powerful effects of smiling. Smiling, even without a reason for doing so, can improve mood, reduce stress and generally make you more likable. The act of smiling changes both your emotional state and that of the other person you are communicating with – both for the better. There is really no downside to the practice of smiling.

Practice Smiling

I’ve often encountered curmudgeon negative minded people who ask: “How I can muster a smile when there is NO reason for doing so?” It is easier than you think. Here are a few techniques that ought to get you smiling.  These are just a few of the 100’s you can use to change your state of mind and smile more.


Do you like to laugh? Hint: The only answer to that question should be yes! =P But seriously, comedy is a great place to practice smiling and laughter and it has a variety of positive psychological benefits as well. Go to a comedy club, talk with a funny friend, do a funny dance, listen to a funny song, watch a funny YouTube video. Whatever you do, laugh and enjoy life.


The field of positive Psychology has long studied the power of gratitude and its capacity to make us more happy and fulfilled. Try creating a list every day of things you are happy and grateful for. These can be things large and small in life. Doing so will certainly help you think deeply about how much we have to appreciate in life. Life is a gift to be savored and enjoyed.

Positive Resting Face

Smiling becomes easier when we embrace positive attitudes and habits. These habits dramatically change how we see ourselves and show this via our body language. As a part of this your face will reflect your happier, warm, confident you. In turn, others will see you as more trustworthy, approachable, and competent. So let your beautiful smile shine! You owe it yourself to be happy – it is your fundamental birthright. In doing so others will be more open to the tremendous skills, capacities and talents you uniquely bring to the world. Let your genius shine, show your resting face incorporating a glorious beautiful smile. =)

What do you think? How effective is your resting face? If this post was helpful please comment below and or join our monthly mailing list for more free speaking and leadership tips.

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