A Smile is Worth $152 Million

Can you tell someone you love them without speaking a word?

How about conveying anger without saying a thing? (Any husband who’s been on the receiving end of his wife’s wrath will tell you that her silence speaks louder than words!)

In 1971, researcher Albert Mehrabian studied verbal and non-verbal communication. What he found was that our words only count for about seven percent of our communication. Our tone of voice actually counts more (thirty-eight percent to be exact) and our body language is the most important factor in our communication. When we communicate with others, it is our body language that makes up fifty-five percent of how our communication is received.

So if you’re saying something nice but actually feeling angry, your body language is going to betray your thoughts. How often have you tried to cover up a bad mood but found that you just couldn’t convey good feelings to others when you weren’t feeling them yourself?

On the other hand, if you simply smile at someone in a warm, genuine way (did you know there are 5 different documented smiles?), you don’t even have to say a word. The recipient of your smile will know that your body language is communicating kindness. That person already “hears” the unspoken words and interprets them as: This person is kind. This person accepts me. This person is welcoming.

In today’s world, unfortunately, bullying and non-acceptance are much more common.

And while in the past, bullying happened just as it does today, now we have one very important difference: the internet.

Cyberbullying is rampant and follows your child into the home. Children have no escape when bullies can attack them via social media or by texting them at all times of the day and night. Current statistics suggest that at least half of adolescents have been cyberbullied and most of them do not tell their parents.

California alone loses an estimated $276 million a year because students do not attend school out of fear of bullying. That’s more than 160,000 kids staying home because they fear being made fun of or worse.

If each of those students received a genuine smile from a classmate each day and for one moment felt accepted, what might change?

What if a child who was depressed and afraid of being bullied went to school and one of his classmates smiled genuinely at him? What if that encouraged him to smile back at her? A University of Kansas study demonstrated that smiling can actually decrease our bodies’ stress responses. So in this example, both children would find their stress levels lowered by smiling at each other. Without saying a word, they both benefited from a smile.

If the math is 55% of the people are able to communicate a message and receive a message through non verbal communication, like a smile, and the cost to the schools in California due to bullying is $276 million, a smile could, in essence, save $152 million.