3 Simple Ways To Make People Smile — And Why These Moments of Truth Matter

Ash Jurberg

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“I’m positively delightful.”

The barista broke out into a big smile. “I hadn't heard that reply before; I’ll have to use that one myself in the future,” he said as he prepared my morning caffeine goodness. It was the first time I had been to this cafe, so he wasn’t prepared for my unusual answer.

Every day we get asked, “How are you?” numerous times, and I am willing to bet my morning cappuccino that 99% of the time, you either say “good” or “not bad.

It is often a throwaway line with a stock standard answer. No thought at all given. But it doesn't have to be.

Giving the person a slightly different response and replying with a bit of enthusiasm and a smile can help improve someone's day. A small moment in time could lead to a big impact.

It impacted me — though it wasn't my intended outcome, the barista gave me a free muffin. “Just for making me smile on this busy morning.” And he had a smile on his face as he worked through the morning coffee rush.

It is that easy to make a difference.

1. A creative reply

Every day we have lots of little and seemingly meaningless interactions. But we can make each one of these a little more meaningful.

When you walk into a store, a sales assistant will often eagerly come up to you and ask if you need any help. Again the stock standard reply is, “no, I’m just looking.”

You move to peruse the store and the sales assistant retreats. Life continues for both of you.

But what if you put a little more creativity into your reply.

“Not at the moment, thanks, but when I do, you’ll be the first to know.”

“I don’t have anything in mind, but I’d love any suggestions that you might have later.”

I usually go with one of those. Sometimes I like to vary it up, but again it gives the assistant a little smile and perhaps something very small to remember at the end of a long shift. It shows you value their time and that they are trying to do their job instead of a dismissal.

2. A smile and a wave

Now it's time for me to ask you a question.

How many strangers do you walk past in a day? 10? 100? 1000?

Follow-up question. How many of them do you speak to or acknowledge in some form?

Probably very few. We shuffle along in life, absorbed in our own world. Facedown in our phones, eyes averting any human contact. Whether that be walking our dog or catching the subway, we just want to get from A to B with as little human interaction as possible.

By now, we all know how bad phones are for us. They cause anxiety, depression, affect our sleep, strain our eyes. The list goes on. It also limits our human interaction.

Next time you’re walking somewhere, look at people and smile as you pass them. Say hello. Offer a polite nod. If you are feeling particularly jaunty — and with summer around the corner and relaxed mask laws, you should be — doff your cap or hat as you walk past.

I guarantee that nine times out of ten, the recipient will smile back or ask how you are doing.

It’s a simple human interaction your phone cant provide.

3. A stranger’s just a friend you've never met

What would happen if you, instead of aimlessly scrolling social media on a train ride, spoke to the person next to you? For many, that may sound horrifying, but it shouldn't be.

Research shows that we often underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others for our own and others’ well-being. A study was done on Chicago train commuters. Before their commute, they were asked how they would feel about striking up a conversation on their morning ride instead of sitting in silence. Most said that talking would lead to the least pleasant commute.

After their ride, the commuters who were assigned to talk to a stranger reported having a more pleasant commute than those who didn't talk to anyone. Even the researchers were surprised by the results. They had estimated that only 40% of train passengers would be willing to talk to a stranger, yet every participant who actually tried to talk to a stranger found the person sitting next to them was happy to chat.

Starting a conversation with a stranger on a train may feel intimidating — especially for introverts, but experiments indicate both extroverts and introverts are happier when they are asked to behave in an extroverted manner.

You don’t need to become lifelong friends with a train companion. A chat in any situation where you are waiting may make the time more memorable for you both.

It’s all about the moments of truth

When I was studying Marketing in college, I read a book called The Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon. He was the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines and outlined how managers, employers, and leaders should interact with customers. Each engagement was a moment of truth — where you could win or lose a customer.

We learned a lot about moments of truth in marketing, sales, and customer service over the semester, and it has stuck with me. Many years later. Yes, it has been many years since I was a fresh-faced college student.

And while I tried to use much of this knowledge in my professional life, I've extended it to my personal life. Instead of trying to win a client or secure a sale, my moment of truth is to get a smile. Or to make someone even 0.1% happier.

These small moments of truth can change someone’s day.

Perhaps they've had a terrible day a work. Or received bad news. They could be feeling sick. But for one small moment, they will forget that as they react to your interaction.

And you will feel better about yourself also. One moment of truth — two people happier for the briefest of instances.

Dare I say; you will even be feeling positively delightful.

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