Did you ever notice when someone throws a kind smile your way you often feel compelled to smile back? That impulse is not just a result of your polite nature. It’s because we are neurologically wired to mimic each other!
Research conducted in the 1980s by Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist at the University of Parma, Italy, led to the discovery of the mirror neuron system. These specialized brain cells facilitate the impulse for us to mirror or mimic the behavior of others. This design has two functions. First, it encourages us to synchronize our behavior with those around us to better connect with others. Second, it facilitates learning, which is why it helps for us to see someone do an activity first before we do it ourselves.
So, here’s how it works. If I see you smile, my mirror neurons associated with smiling fire up, which then creates the neurochemical impulse for me to smile. But, here’s the added bonus. Studies, such as the one conducted at the University of Kansas, suggest that smiling triggers a reduction in stress-enhancing hormones. Moreover, a group of researchers in the UK working with Hewlett-Packard Development Company, found that one smile can provide the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 chocolate bars. So, save those calories and turn that frown upside down. Bottom line, smiling, whether we have a reason to do it or not, makes us feel better.
So, when we smile, it encourages others to do the same, which then triggers that stress-reduction phenomena in them. We can affect how others feel just by what we do with our face!
Next time you have a meeting with a difficult client or colleague, let your pearly whites shine! You’ll be amazed at how your smile can shift the energy in the room.