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Default facial expression

9 November 2010

During our weekly spiritual formation/training time on Monday of last week, my internship program engaged in a workshop around body and voice, or “lived Incarnational theology”. We talked a lot about breathing, posture, and body language, especially as it relates to how we interact with people or how we hold ourselves in public speaking situations.

The one thing from that workshop that has had the biggest influence on my own interaction with the world is the default stance. That is, the posture you go to when you are in “neutral”. For me, it’s weight on one foot, other foot angled out and forward, arms crossed along the bottom of my ribcage, shoulders rotated slightly forward. An altogether uninviting posture, to tell the truth.

More significantly, my default facial expression tends to be something between a blank stare and a scowl. When I’m thinking about nothing in particular (which, granted, is not often), I tend to not look very happy. And not looking happy doesn’t make you feel very happy, or the people around you, for that matter.

So today, I decided to see what would happen if my facial expression was somewhere between a blank stare and a smile. As I walked from Copley Station to my office, the difference in my mood was slightly improved. And then, I started seeing people returning my quasi-smile. Who knew that even in the North, people will smile back at you?

All it takes is imagining that you’re about to start laughing and retain that face. It takes some work, but if it can get even Yankees to smile, I think it’s worth the effort.

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