Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Smile at Strangers”.
The last two weeks
Believe it or not, I was out of the country touring Greece the last two weeks, so I wrote blog posts to cover while I was gone. Now I’m back and struggling with a bit of jet lag, so bear with me this week if I ramble a bit. NOTE TO SELF: When traveling, ALSO write the blog for the week you return ahead of time.
Just to kick it off, the vacation was AMAZING. It’s not what this post is about, but here are some highlights anyway. We flew to Athens and spent three nights there. The archaeological sites were something to behold, and the food was out of this world. I’d say you’ve never REALLY had a gyro till you’ve had one (or several dozen) in Greece. After Athens we drove around the Gulf of Corinth through the Peloponnese mountains for 4 days finally landing on the island of Aegina where we spent a week in an Air BnB.
It was completely relaxing
And I worked very little…really only enough to make sure there wasn’t anything pressing and to send my pre-written blog posts out. If you’d like to see some highlights of the trip you can check out some more pics here.
OK, on to the topic at hand. Being in a foreign country gave us plenty of opportunity to see and interact with strangers. Like…everyone there besides us. And we were on vacation, so of course, as you can see, we smiled…a LOT. In my very brief experiment, what I found was this: When you smile at someone, generally they smile back! A smile is contagious.
Researchers have found that smiling, or even nodding at strangers you pass on the street has psychological and physical effects. The acknowledgement has the effect of making the other person feel included (yes, even briefly). Not acknowledging them (with a smile!) can make someone feel excluded, even briefly, which leads to loneliness and loneliness can be deadly!
Smiling at someone makes them feel “included”, which in turn makes them feel good, which makes THEM want to smile…a smile really IS contagious. Try it for yourself. Pick a day and endeavor to smile at strangers you pass on the street and see what happens.
Really, it’s science!
According to mental health expert Roseann Capanna-Hodge, “Smiling at another person can have a ripple effect, not only improving your own health but creating well-being in others.” And “When we smile, it triggers a cascade of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins…Endorphins lower stress levels, reduce pain, and produce feelings of well-being and happiness—which make us just feel good.” So, smiling not only helps strangers, it make YOU feel good too!
But beware…a fake or forced smile does not have the same effect as a genuine smile. Somehow, we humans have a way of detecting when a smile is not genuine. So don’t try the experiment on a day when you can’t muster a genuine smile for someone, or it will backfire!
Is it any wonder people were grumpier during the pandemic? Besides the fact of the disease and the suffering it caused, it ALSO covered up everyone’s smiles. I’m happy that mask requirements are being relaxed because we can smile at one another again. And we have enough reasons in this world to not smile, so seeing people smile is a treat. Even if you’re uncomfortable removing your mask in public, seeing others smile may help you feel just a little better.
Why might we not smile?
There are loads of reasons to avoid smiling at people. Maybe you are focused on something important, or maybe you feel like a smile will lead to something you don’t want like a conversation when you don’t have time. I get it. But remember, smiling at strangers helps not only THEM but YOU as well. Feeling grumpy or overwhelmed? Try smiling (genuinely) at people. Before you know it you’ll feel much better.
What does this have to do with VO or acting?
I’m glad you asked! As a freelance VO artist or actor, you are going to wind up meeting and working with strangers ALL THE TIME. It’s rare to show up on a new set, or log into a directed VO session with people you know. True, there are times, but it is rare. And on a set the odds that you know even one person, let alone a group of people, is slim. And no matter what, there will ALWAYS be someone you don’t know (a stranger).
I may have mentioned before…
Maybe just once or twice anyway, that this industry is built on a foundation of relationships. It is going to be rough on you if you can’t establish, build, and maintain relationships. And think about it: People don’t really like a sourpuss (yeah, that is an older phrase that reveals my age, I know). Every time you show up on set or log into a directed session, you have an opportunity to smile and make a new relationship.
A face for radio
That’s what my mom used to tell me. Yeah, I know, not very encouraging. I loved my mom, but she was…complicated. Anyway, enough about her. How the heck do you smile at someone as a VO artist when they can’t even SEE you?! And the answer is…just the same way as if they CAN see you.
Well, one of my VO coaches anyway, used to say, “I can’t hear your smile”. I was like, what? That’s like saying I can’t taste blue. It made no sense to me. But here’s the thing: Your facial expression drives a change in your voice. You actually CAN hear a smile. Think about the last time you called someone who was happy to hear from you. You can tell by the way they sound. And then try calling your boss to take a sick day…THEY’RE not smiling, and you can tell that too!
As I mentioned, nearly every time (if not EVERY time) you arrive on set for a job there are going to be a LOT of people you don’t know. Smiling will act to make the environment brighter, and if you’ve ever been on an “unfriendly” set (I have) you’ll know that it makes for a very stressful, very long day. And if you’ve been on a friendly set, you’ll know that it makes the work a breeze (well, it IS still work, but…) and you’ll want to work with those people again.
If you are the one that always responds with a smile, they’ll want to work with you again. And as a freelance performer, that is what you want. You want to be the person people want to work with. So, you be the person who smiles and soon others will be smiling. At the VERY least you’ll get to work on a fun, friendly set.
At the end of the day
Try to remember that a genuine smile helps to make others feel better and more included. It helps to relieve (even a little) someone’s loneliness and it also gives you a little endorphin rush as well. It’s like the simplest win-win situation and you have control over it! So, from now on…Smile at Strangers!
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