“Are you angry?”

I use to be asked this all the time as a kid. I’ve never been an angry person, so I thought it was strange. As I grew older however, I realized why: it’s because I never learned to smile in conversations with other kids.

I was a socially inept kid, so I never talked to anyone. Sometimes when other kids would talk to me, I would answer, but I never smiled — I didn’t know how to. Conversations would end shortly. Aside from my inability to have a conversation, the other problem was that everyone talking to me thought I was uninterested or I was angry. This could’ve been solved with one simple gesture: a smile.

The importance of smiling in conversations

There is so much communicated through nonverbal means (as mentioned here) and one of the ways is that it sends cues to the other person that you are interested in what they say, that you enjoy their companionship, or you are a pleasant person. And guess what? You can convey these to the other person just by smiling. The other person feels more positively about the conversation, which in turn reflects onto you. Two people talking leave good impressions on each other and maybe a relationship forms later. This, readers, is exactly why social skills are important.

What a smile communicates

A smile can communicate many things.

A smile can mean you agree or understand

A smile along with a slight nod means that you agree with what the person is saying. When people are talking, there are several things they love to see, and a smile would definitely be one of them. And of course, at the core of every person is a desire to be understood.

A smile helps convince the speaker that they are funny

Even though not everyone is funny, most of us still like to think we’re funny. When someone says something remotely interesting or funny, there is no better way to stroke their ego than to crack a smile or laugh.


When you become more socially adept, you will even learn to fake smile at others’ jokes. Though you might think it disingenuous, it too is a part of social skills: faking a response to get a person to like you more. Talk show hosts do it all the time. And guess what? Talk show hosts are socializing with celebrities all the time, so you know they are socially adept.

A smile tells the person that you are friendly

Here’s a difficult task: try and meet new people without smiling at all. In fact, try and do so with a perpetual scowl or showing visible boredom.

"Hi. I'm Sally. I'm so excited to meet you."

“Hi. I’m Sally. I’m sooooooo excited to meet you.”

You will find that people will eventually try to exit the conversation (exceptions exist too). The reason is because socially adept people (the people you want to be like or be friends with) are aware of social cues and when they see a person not smiling at all or giving positive cues, they will realize it’s not a good conversation or… the person just is not friendly. Interestingly enough, if you run into people with poor social skills, you might find that they ramble on and on, despire any cues you display to show disinterest (looking at the time, yawning, looking away, not showing interest, no smiling).

Learn to smile, even when you don’t mean it

Gradually, I learned the importance of smiling and more importantly, how to fake smile, which is a very important skill for people who want to want to be charismatic, well-liked, or persuasive. 

Let me give you an example. I had met a girl once through a friend. We met up for coffee and were waiting for a subway and just talking. I decided to tell a joke.  I forgot the joke, but I remember it was pretty lame (I have the bad habit of wanting to tell puns). Well, this girl, did not frown in response, but instead, she burst out laughing. I even noticed she playfully hit me while laughing. Guess what? It was not that funny. My puns are never that funny. I 99% guarantee this girl was strategically laughing to appeal to me more. We met up again later when she invited me to a dinner.

This is the power of the smile — if you can learn to fake smile, you have a valuable social skill that can be used to gain favor with any relationship, no matter how shallow or deep. Use it with a clerk at the DMV or use it with a friend you’re getting to know.