There is a very famous study with undergraduates who were given some tasks and some were asked to hold a pencil in their teeth (mimicking a smile). The task was not significant. The pencil holding was the significant part of the research.
It seems that those who held the pencil between their teeth had more positive feelings during the task, after the task and also days after the task.
The researchers concluded that a “fake” smile may have triggered the happy hormone and made the participants feel better.
This is also the theory behind Laughter Yoga. This school of yoga leads groups of people in laughter exercises and the results have been measurable and positive. The brain reacts to fake laughter just as readily as it does to real laughter.
So fake smiles and fake laughs are good for us!
How can we actually use this amazing piece of research?
I found a way this past week while mediating between an employee and an employer.
Both parties were in terrible deadlock over what the job description was, could have been and will be moving forward.
The employer was an older woman who had a history of not being very tolerant.
The employee was the geriatric nurses aide that was hired to help make the older woman’s life a little easier.
Both women needed each other.
Both women were ALPHA women.
Both wanted to be “right”.
Both wanted ME to tell the other that the other was at fault.
The employee began the conversation citing past instances of when the older woman was “mean” or ” hateful” to other employees. I stopped her instantly and asked her why those things were her business.
She was a bit stunned. She thought I needed the history to make a fair determination.
I did not.
I told the employee that my focus was what SHE wanted from her life and how she chooses to address the things that concerned her.
I then asked her to hold a pencil in her mouth and she had to listen to me while I told her how the mediation would be conducted.
The older woman was at first very sure she would not hold the pencil.
Her reason was this, “This is a serious subject and I am a serious person.”
I said, “Yes this is serious but we do not have to have discussions with mean faces that are only reflecting disdain and anger.”
I finally got her to “fake” a smile.
I then began the mediation.
I must say, the results were marvelous.
The parties seemed to be able to listen more attentively because they were focussed on maintaining the smiles and the discussion did not fall into a “she said, she said.”
It was quite exhausting for me, as both of these women were really tough cookies. They were both used to running right over the people in their lives. They were used to “winning” while others were to be the “losers.”
I was sure this needed to be a win/win.
Why would this lesson be necessary in a blog that deals with ways to handle abuse?
I actually think that we can teach this technique to small kids when they begin to bully others in their family. As mothers we can hold pencils between our teeth when we want to scream at our kids. We can show our children that while we are experiencing human emotions we do not have to give into negative and demeaning behaviors.
Please try this exercise the next time you are so angry you just want to scream.
Please do not use this technique to dismiss significant abuse. Significant abuse must be dealt with in different ways. You must seek guidance to handle significant abuse and get to safety for you and your children.
This technique is for the smaller aggravations in life that often trip you up.
Love and light,