Why you shouldn’t tell people to smile

I’ve done this to people before, by the way. And I should’ve known better, because this was a pet peeve of mine…is a pet peeve of mine. When I was young, I was painfully shy and really inside of my head (usually about 20 miles inside my head).

I didn’t smile much. Sometimes I was sad, sure, but sometimes, I was just really unaware of my surroundings. And then, into this reverie would break some well meaning, annoyingly friendly voice:

“Hey, smile!”

“Why so sad? Smile!”

Or some variation of the above. I understand that whatever person was saying this at the time was probably well intentioned, just trying to cheer me up. But I can’t ever recall any person who knew me well telling me this.

So here’s the way it came across:

“I don’t know you well, but rather than start a friendly conversation with you, I’m going to immediately point out something about you that needs fixing. Something is WRONG with you, and I’m going to do something about it.”

Think about that for a minute. If someone is, in fact, having a horrible day, is telling them to just suddenly SMILE going to make them feel better? And, if you hardly know them, is it really your place to step into their life and immediately try to fix them?

A simple “Hi, how are you?’ would be SO much better. Or maybe a random compliment.

A coworker recently told me that strangers have told her to smile while she was walking her dog in the park. It ticked her off. Wouldn’t it have been better if those strangers had said a simple “hello,” or complimented her dog?

Just something to keep in mind. Call me sensitive, but truly, nobody has ever told me:

“Hey, the other day I was feeling crappy, but THEN somebody told me to smile. Man, that made my friggin’ DAY!”

Actively love people instead of delivering them criticism in disguise.



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2 responses to “Why you shouldn’t tell people to smile

  1. Agreed on this being a pet peeve. Ugh. I hate it and it immediately puts me on the defensive…usually, when people have said this to me, I’m not sad at all – just, like you, lost in my thoughts. So then I feel I have to justify my lack of having a smile mindlessly plastered on my face to some random stranger. …and, in the end, I’m left with a ding in my self-esteem as I realize I must look pouty or sad if I don’t stand there smiling all the time. It’s just not natural to do that, for heaven sake!! What’s with people??

  2. I know…it has the opposite effect of what was intended. It just kind of makes you feel bad, like “Agh, I must look grumpy!” And then you’re in a spiral of trying to figure out if people think you’re a cranky person, and if you were initially in a bad mood, it’s worse.

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