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Smiles beneath our Masks 🙃

With the COVID-19 pandemic, our office now requires all team members and visitors to wear masks. Our staff members are also equipped with face shields and plexiglass barriers in some high-traffic areas of the office. Admittedly, this makes it a little harder to interpret someone's facial expressions. But, these measures were put into place to help keep everyone safe and healthy, so we think it's a small sacrifice in order to keep everyone well.

Still, there are ways to tell if someone is smiling genuinely (it's called a "Duchenne Smile") or if it's being faked (or the more PC description would be calling it a 'polite' smile) - with or without a mask.

Here are the markers of a genuine smile:

  • Have you heard of "smizing"? It's short for "smiling with the eyes". In a real smile, the muscles that guide the corners of your mouth work in tandem with the muscles that make your eyes crinkle. So, if you don't see the creases near the corners of the eyes, it might not be a real smile. Take a note of this any time someone smiles at you. And pay attention while reading fiction - authors often describe villains and suspected 'bad guys' with, "but his/her smile didn't quite reach the eyes".

  • But wait! Simply knowing about this quirk of smiling with the eyes can make it easier to fake a smile then, right? Because people can just intentionally fake the eye crinkles while they fake the smile. Good point! A subtler cue to look for is in the eyebrows - there is a slight lowering of the eyebrows in a Duchenne Smile - which is less easily mimicked than the eye crinkles.

There is an entire study of smiles and the research is fascinating. And sometimes the best advice is "fake it 'til you make it" - because even if you're not smiling authentically, if you just do it, it can potentially help to elevate your mood (Read about it here). Smiling can also help reduce stress levels - although the Duchenne has a slight advantage in this respect.

So next time you're in the office, let's share a smile or two behind those masks - we look forward to seeing you!!


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