Ifat Glassman

A problem dealing with people who act nice

80 posts in this topic

I was wondering if anyone ever had the same problem and thoughts, and would like to offer a solution or additional input.

Here is the thing: I have always felt (since around high school time), that people are artificially nice. Many people (excluding close friends) smile at you for many reasons, none of which are enjoyment.

It seems more like people are afraid not to smile, because they sense it could make a declaration of some sort. Or they may smile to build some sort of "bridge of approval" (you know, of the type of "you like me, I like you" when in fact you barely know the person at all).

The thing I dislike about it is that it feels like a trap. It takes a lot from me to instantaneously identify if someone is smiling in a genuine way, or in a fake way, and yet it feels ungrateful or attacking in a way to return a flat face of indifference (or even a disliking face) for a smile.

I'd like to use my face to only convey my feelings. Never to communicate any social conventions. So this whole thing irritates me and I'm not sure how to solve it.

Furthermore, I consider consistency between facial expressions and emotions to be part of the virtue of honesty (a very important part, too).

I think a man that can keep his face "pure" in this sense, and not to consider other people's emotions in this context has reached a tremendous psychological achievement.

Most people I see never look as honest in this sense. It seems like most people succumb to the "nice" fear.

People who actually genuinely return smiles are just as unique as the honest (and not approving) type (to sketch a very rough draft of this personality). Marilyn Monroe comes to my mind, and also Rachel Ray (a famous host for a T.V. show). Potentially, also Betsy Speicher (although I don't know enough to tell for sure). They actually smile in a genuine way, that seems to come from somehow believing that people around them are good enough for it. I am inclined to think this is an over-optimistic illusion.

So far I've had some mixed solutions, but none of them feels quite right.

On the record - I have no problem interacting with people who are genuinely nice, and to whom I have a desire to smile at. I don't hate nice-ness as such :wacko: . I just hate any fake part of it (which is very common).

Any input is welcome.

Ifat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not quite sure I grasp what your objection is from the examples you gave. Are you talking about people at work who are walking by and you smile nicely at and say "hello" to? Are you talking about strangers in the street? How do you know what the intentions are of other people? What evidence are you going by? Just the smile? What does this mean: "I think a man that can keep his face "pure" in this sense, and not to consider other people's emotions in this context has reached a tremendous psychological achievement." Your context is not clear to me. What conditions should I not consider someone else's emotions when it comes to a smile? Who are these others? Why is the only justification for a smile "enjoyment"?

I know a few people at my work, whom I see every day, and will not smile or say hello when we walk each other. Some don't even lift their eyes to acknowledge that someone is passing them. Is this the kind of "honesty" you are talking about?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not quite sure I grasp what your objection is from the examples you gave. Are you talking about people at work who are walking by and you smile nicely at and say "hello" to? Are you talking about strangers in the street?

It could be either. People at your workplace are a good example. Or salesmen, or store clerks, or people at a party. Choose whatever setting you have experience with.

How do you know what the intentions are of other people? What evidence are you going by? Just the smile?

Yes. Facial expression is my evidence here.

What does this mean: "I think a man that can keep his face "pure" in this sense, and not to consider other people's emotions in this context has reached a tremendous psychological achievement." Your context is not clear to me. What conditions should I not consider someone else's emotions when it comes to a smile? Who are these others?

"Others" are other people who smile at the person I described as keeping his face "pure". What I meant by that quote is that this person does not return a smile (or any other expression) as separate from his desires and emotions. He doesn't smile at someone else just because they smiled at him. He only smiles if he really feels like it, as a result of liking the person who is smiling at him, or enjoying a certain meaning or mood that is present in the communication between himself and others. He never has "empty smiles".

Why is the only justification for a smile "enjoyment"?

Because enjoyment is the natural state that brings a smile to a person's face. Any opposite emotional state requires that one smiles in complete separation from his emotions, which makes it a fake expression. visual examples: this, this ,this.

Example of the opposite honesty I was talking about: Picture of Ayn Rand smiling. If you do not see a difference between these smiles, I don't know if I can say anything to convince you that fake smiles exist. (not to sound hostile, this is just as I see the situation).

I know a few people at my work, whom I see every day, and will not smile or say hello when we walk each other. Some don't even lift their eyes to acknowledge that someone is passing them. Is this the kind of "honesty" you are talking about?

No, not necessarily. This behavior, by itself, says nothing at all to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think smiling is a natural reaction to feeling happy. I smile a lot and it's usually because I feel happy about something and it has nothing to do with the people around me. Also, I smile at people I barely know, sometimes, because I enjoy something about them that is visible externally, or because they make me think of a character I like that may or may not be anything like them.

I had never thought about smiling just for social convention. I guess it's true that many people do this in sales and for political reasons. Also, as a dancer I often smiled for the sake of the "character" of the dance.

I really don't think it is possible to tell why someone is smiling. It's just impossible to distinguish for certain if their smile is genuine or fake, so why bother to worry about it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ifat, I generally have two reasons for offering a smile, a hello or a handshake. The first reason is to be courteous as there is nothing wrong with being civil to another person, as long as it is not a sacrifice. I also offer a smile, a hello or a handshake as an opportunity to meet someone that is worthy. It is an initial attempt to see if this person is worth some extra effort that can only come after finding out more about them. A person cannot always just look at a person and tell if they carry the same or similar values and virtues. I do not offer a smile, a handshake nor the opening of a door for people that I already know to be unworthy of my time and freindship.

Maybe a concrete example might help.

If one of my clients is late I sometimes step outside to see if they are in the parking lot. Sometimes while opening the door I notice other people are coming into the building and I sometimes decide to stay and keep the door open for them while greeting them with a smile and a hello. If this person does not return the politeness nor even acknowledge the initial generosity then I will not duplicate. I will not open the door for them nor greet them with a smile as they have shown me that they, most likely, are not worhty.

In certain circumstances a person might not have the time to be polite with a smile, a handshake or holding the door and that is understandable. But unless a person is willing to start the initial greeting they might miss out on someone that could be worthy of earning the title friend. Being selfish does not mean beign rude to everyone that someone encounters and I think it is irrational as being selfish requires integrated, long-term thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

JORDIN%20SPARKS%20FAKE%20SMILE%20MAGAZINE%20COVER1.jpg

More pictures to show what I mean by a fake smile:

link (you can see that the eyes are not happy), contrast with this picture I saw lately: link (eyes are happy). And if you're ready to feast on something really appaling, take a load of this fake smile: link, and a double fake, "pose for the camera" smile: link.

Geniune smile of a cute baby: link.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ifat, I generally have two reasons for offering a smile, a hello or a handshake.

A hello, a handshake, a conversation or opening a door are nothing at all like a smile. The natural state of a smile is one that comes spontaneously from emotions. It is a reflection of liking or enjoying the other person. Opening a door for your costumer is courtesy which reflects the required atmosphere for making business. Declaring to this person that you like him/her is not necessary. General approval is still not the same as enjoying someone. Enjoying the idea of earning more money from this person is still not enjoying or liking him/her. That's what makes the difference between a "greedy" smile and a smile of liking someone.

The first reason is to be courteous as there is nothing wrong with being civil to another person, as long as it is not a sacrifice. I also offer a smile, a hello or a handshake as an opportunity to meet someone that is worthy.

Best people I've met did not smile at me when they first met me. They only smiled when they enjoyed my presence enough to smile spontaneously. It is not true that in order to meet good people you have to smile upon meeting them. In my experience, it is the contrary: meaning someone who acts naturally will attract to himself the best friends and build a friendship based on honesty.

And also, I would much respect a salesman who was courteous to me but did not try to smile at me like I'm his new best friend.

Being selfish does not mean being rude to everyone that someone encounters and I think it is irrational as being selfish requires integrated, long-term thought.

That's a false dichotomy - either be rude or smile. A person can be honest, polite and courteous and still not fake a single smile.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JORDIN%20SPARKS%20FAKE%20SMILE%20MAGAZINE%20COVER1.jpg

More pictures to show what I mean by a fake smile:

link (you can see that the eyes are not happy), contrast with this picture I saw lately: link (eyes are happy). And if you're ready to feast on something really appaling, take a load of this fake smile: link, and a double fake, "pose for the camera" smile: link.

Geniune smile of a cute baby: link.

I studied facial expression for close to four years as an undergraduate. I watched hour after hour of video and specifically coded for particular facial expressions. One issue is looking at consistency across the three main regions of the face. Another, which can't be told by pictures alone, is how long the facial expression lasts. Typically, the shorter the duration, the phonier the look. The exception is a micro-expression which is a "flash" of some emotion via the face. Those are genuine.

The primary photo in your post of Jordin Sparks may be a fake smile (the frozen face the cover speaks of), but there actually isn't a lot of evidence for it--her face is consistent across three regions. However, presumably the picture was posed, which may call into question either the genuineness or depth of her emotion. I don't see Jessica Alba's smile as fake either--her eyes look tired, not necessarily unhappy. The others examples of either fake genuine smiles I agree with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was wondering if anyone ever had the same problem and thoughts, and would like to offer a solution or additional input.

Here is the thing: I have always felt (since around high school time), that people are artificially nice. Many people (excluding close friends) smile at you for many reasons, none of which are enjoyment.

I'd like to use my face to only convey my feelings. Never to communicate any social conventions. So this whole thing irritates me and I'm not sure how to solve it.

Furthermore, I consider consistency between facial expressions and emotions to be part of the virtue of honesty (a very important part, too).

This used to annoy me, too. Also, after having studied facial expression, it's extremely easy for me to pick up on disingenuousness. However, I've learned that it doesn't really matter if someone is offering me a fake smile. Over time, I've gotten less and less focused on others.

When in a social or public situation, I usually offer a pleasant look, a small smile or at least friendly eyes, to a person I am meeting. (This is in contrast to a big, broad, but fake smile, which I would never give.) That's certainly important as a psychologist, but in social situations I do it from the perspective that I might be meeting someone who is a potential value and because one typically gets back from the world the same thing he brings to it. If one goes around expressionless or even slightly angry, then most people will react in kind. There is no harm in being pleasant to strangers, nor is it disingenuous. I think it's an appropriate projection of a benevolent universe premise in one's demeanor and interactions with others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ifat, frist off, I used the example to give an explanation of why I would be in the situation of smiling at someone I do not know. In other words, I went to the door to see if my client was at my office, they were not, and while waiting some other person came to the doorway which I held. I also think I have a good understanding of how to greet my clients and what benefits come from those actions.

Do you hold open doors for people and greet them without smiling at them? Do you frown at people while stating, "how are you?" Do you shake someone's hand without and frown while stating, "I am not pleased to meet?" I do not as I choose to give the full integrated, appropriate greeting?

Finally, I did not create a dichotomy, that is what you have percieved. My attempt was to state that one should act in accordance to what is best to their long-term interest. If you think that treating someone rudely is appropriate than do so. If you think that treating someone with courtesy is appropriate than do so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I studied facial expression for close to four years as an undergraduate. I watched hour after hour of video and specifically coded for particular facial expressions. One issue is looking at consistency across the three main regions of the face. Another, which can't be told by pictures alone, is how long the facial expression lasts. Typically, the shorter the duration, the phonier the look. The exception is a micro-expression which is a "flash" of some emotion via the face. Those are genuine.

The primary photo in your post of Jordin Sparks may be a fake smile (the frozen face the cover speaks of), but there actually isn't a lot of evidence for it--her face is consistent across three regions. However, presumably the picture was posed, which may call into question either the genuineness or depth of her emotion. I don't see Jessica Alba's smile as fake either--her eyes look tired, not necessarily unhappy. The others examples of either fake genuine smiles I agree with.

Well, Halleluya! someone who agrees with me that fake expressions exist.

I had the exact same thoughts as yours about the picture of Jordin Sparks.

Nice remark about the exception of micro-expression. I never thought of it like that...

I am impressed that part of training in a psychology degree involves what you describe. I thought there is nothing to expect but bologny, back in the days when I was considering a degree in psychology.

OK, now to your follow-up post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ifat, I do not think anyone that has replied to your post has stated that they do not agree that there are fake expressions/smiles. But the title of your thread is "A problem dealing with people who act nice." and not "Do people fake happiness or expressions/smiles?" If you wanted to know if we agreed that some people are fake you should have asked that question. Instead you asked how to deal with the problem of people that act nice and people gave information on how they deal with the situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This used to annoy me, too. Also, after having studied facial expression, it's extremely easy for me to pick up on disingenuousness. However, I've learned that it doesn't really matter if someone is offering me a fake smile. Over time, I've gotten less and less focused on others.

At first I thought, this is a good solution, or state of mind to be in. But I don't think I can or want to do this. I *want* to focus on the people I'm talking to. Especially assuming it could be a potential friend, I naturally focus on their voice, expression, and words.

In what way do you mean you are not focused on other people? I can think of a paranoid case of a person who is overly self-aware of himself, always aware of what others think of him. That is not healthy. But there is a different kind. Take Ayn Rand for example - I assume you saw some of her video interviews. She is very much focused on the person she's talking to. For one, she does not move her glance from the interviewer/speaker's face. Also, you can see an expression of concentration directed at the person.

So, what kind of "focus" on other people are you talking about here?

I don't think I can focus on someone Ayn Rand style, and still not care about a fake expression. Can you?

BTW, your posts are great. Just what I needed to get some meat on this discussion.

When in a social or public situation, I usually offer a pleasant look, a small smile or at least friendly eyes, to a person I am meeting. (This is in contrast to a big, broad, but fake smile, which I would never give.)

This discusses the degree, but not the fake/genuine distinction. Unless... would you say that these are genuine, spontaneous expression of your emotions at the time, or rather using your will to control your muscles/expression?

That's certainly important as a psychologist, but in social situations I do it from the perspective that I might be meeting someone who is a potential value and because one typically gets back from the world the same thing he brings to it. If one goes around expressionless or even slightly angry, then most people will react in kind.

Observing Ayn Rand, I think she did neither. I think this is a similar false dichotomy like Ray was suggesting (which I still think you are suggesting, Ray, even after your follow-up post). Ayn Rand, from what I can tell has a baseline expression of extreme interest in things and enthusiasm. When she talks to people she does not change (using control of her muscles) her expression, but rather let her expression reflect her immediate evaluation of someone, combined with the baseline expression of interest in the world and enthusiasm.

There is no harm in being pleasant to strangers, nor is it disingenuous. I think it's an appropriate projection of a benevolent universe premise in one's demeanor and interactions with others.

I think whether or not there is harm, depends on your answer to my question if it involved voluntary control of one's muscles and expression. I think that such control* does damage one's well being. For starters, it automatizes a dissociation between one's expression and one's emotions. It is not coincidence that the magazine talks about "feeling dead inside". Feeling dead is a result of this kind of faking emotions. One, over time, loses touch with one's true feelings and becomes an empty vessel. This also influences one's self-esteem in a very heavy way. People who fake smiles, I guarantee you, also have self-esteem issues. But it's going to be hard to provide evidence for my last statement - maybe you can help here.

*(putting aside rare cases like hiding a fugitive in your home and laying to the Nazis about it)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ifat, I do not think anyone that has replied to your post has stated that they do not agree that there are fake expressions/smiles. But the title of your thread is "A problem dealing with people who act nice." and not "Do people fake happiness or expressions/smiles?" If you wanted to know if we agreed that some people are fake you should have asked that question. Instead you asked how to deal with the problem of people that act nice and people gave information on how they deal with the situation.

It is obvious that in order to discuss how to deal with fake nice-ness (/fake smiles), people first need to agree that such a thing exists. Like Duh.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's certainly important as a psychologist, but in social situations I do it from the perspective that I might be meeting someone who is a potential value and because one typically gets back from the world the same thing he brings to it. If one goes around expressionless or even slightly angry, then most people will react in kind.

Observing Ayn Rand, I think she did neither. I think this is a similar false dichotomy like Ray was suggesting (which I still think you are suggesting, Ray, even after your follow-up post). Ayn Rand, from what I can tell has a baseline expression of extreme interest in things and enthusiasm. When she talks to people she does not change (using control of her muscles) her expression, but rather let her expression reflect her immediate evaluation of someone, combined with the baseline expression of interest in the world and enthusiasm.

The example you use of Ayn Rand's reactions are during a time of being interviewed and do not directly relate to the situation you originally used. But if you notice in some of her interviews she does not hesitate to change her expression and interest in some other people and their questions or responses.

When I am having a discussion with someone I am not concerned about my facial expressions as they just happen. How do I know this? My family members, friends and coworkers have told me so. A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with one of my wife's former coworker's husband about economics, he started the conversation. During this conversation he brought up "greedy business owners" and that the government should step in with more regulations. I of coursed countered back that his ideas are a large part of the problem. He stated that capitalism sounds great in theory but has never worked in reality. I, without consciously choosing to, raised my voice, widened my eyes and projected a look of anger. I almost never think of doing these type of things as they just happen in accordance to my value choices. Later that night my wife called the couple and asked if everyone was alright with what had happened? There general response was something like, there was no problem and Ray is an extremely intense person. They are damn right I am and when I value something my whole body reacts in an integrated (non-faking) fashion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ifat, I do not think anyone that has replied to your post has stated that they do not agree that there are fake expressions/smiles. But the title of your thread is "A problem dealing with people who act nice." and not "Do people fake happiness or expressions/smiles?" If you wanted to know if we agreed that some people are fake you should have asked that question. Instead you asked how to deal with the problem of people that act nice and people gave information on how they deal with the situation.

It is obvious that in order to discuss how to deal with fake nice-ness (/fake smiles), people first need to agree that such a thing exists. Like Duh.

Like duh, you are the one that wrote, "Halleluya! someone who agrees with me that fake expressions exist." Some people act in "fake" ways almost all the time, they steal to project wealth, they lie to project that they are better than they are, they cheat to project that they are smarter than they are. What makes you think that a fake a smile should be any different? And why should dealing with a fake smile require anything different than your judgement and actions toward the others?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think smiling is a natural reaction to feeling happy. I smile a lot and it's usually because I feel happy about something and it has nothing to do with the people around me. Also, I smile at people I barely know, sometimes, because I enjoy something about them that is visible externally, or because they make me think of a character I like that may or may not be anything like them.

That's my reaction as well.

Also, when strangers smile at me, I assume it's a genuine, involuntary reaction to something they see in me that they enjoy -- my posture, dress, facial animation, bouncy way of walking, etc. -- and I can't help smiling back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ifat, I do not think anyone that has replied to your post has stated that they do not agree that there are fake expressions/smiles. But the title of your thread is "A problem dealing with people who act nice." and not "Do people fake happiness or expressions/smiles?" If you wanted to know if we agreed that some people are fake you should have asked that question. Instead you asked how to deal with the problem of people that act nice and people gave information on how they deal with the situation.

It is obvious that in order to discuss how to deal with fake nice-ness (/fake smiles), people first need to agree that such a thing exists. Like Duh.

Ifat, shouldn't you take cognizance of your audience here? It is obvious that everyone here has read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and thus obvious that everyone here is aware of all kinds of fakery in the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think smiling is a natural reaction to feeling happy. I smile a lot and it's usually because I feel happy about something and it has nothing to do with the people around me. Also, I smile at people I barely know, sometimes, because I enjoy something about them that is visible externally, or because they make me think of a character I like that may or may not be anything like them.

That's my reaction as well.

Also, when strangers smile at me, I assume it's a genuine, involuntary reaction to something they see in me that they enjoy -- my posture, dress, facial animation, bouncy way of walking, etc. -- and I can't help smiling back.

I have told this story once before, but I think it fits this situation. I apologize to those that have already read it.

I was walking through my local Costco store and while doing so I was not, generally, paying attention to other people in the store. I usually walk in a very proficient manner from point A to point B without stopping. I also usually walk in a very upright position, just imagine a Marine in his dress uniform and the prideful look that he has. Well, I noticed an older woman with a broken leg in a wheelchair coming at me and I thought she might run into me. Finally the older woman stopped her wheelchair right in front of me and said; "Excuse me sir, I just wanted to say thank you. I do not see many people today walking with the pride and purpose that you seem to have of which I enjoy and I wanted to say thank you." The woman's comments instantly put a smile on my face, and I thanked her for her kind words.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, let me say that I thought Ray's answer was great. I like the idea of living in a benevolent world and I smile with that in mind. I don't want to be miserable or indifferent as a rule. I also think that Americans have/had a reputation for being happy and I don't think it is/was fake.

JORDIN%20SPARKS%20FAKE%20SMILE%20MAGAZINE%20COVER1.jpg

Yes, that looks fake. I'm sure it was a photo shoot where she was told to smile, probably the result of a long day of picture taking.

More pictures to show what I mean by a fake smile:

link (you can see that the eyes are not happy),

I'm struggling with this one. Jessica Alba looks happy to me there. The eyes look focused and certain.

contrast with this picture I saw lately: link (eyes are happy).

Sure, she looks very happy. Keep in mind, however, you can't always tell someone's internal state by their outward appearances. I learned a long time ago to be careful in this regard, because I've found people that are genuinely happy (or so they convinced me) and yet the outward signs were that they were not happy, and, conversely, I've seen people who looked absolutely full of spirit and happiness who I later found out were not happy.

Then again, I've seen lots of cases where the outside and inside were in sync.

And if you're ready to feast on something really appaling, take a load of this fake smile: link, and a double fake, "pose for the camera" smile: link.

No argument here, although the first looks almost like an attempt at being funny.

Geniune smile of a cute baby: link.

And we have a winner!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When one encounters someone else, one has no clue as to the mood the other party is in unless they give you a clue. What is one to expect from this other person? Are they hostile, impatient, uninterested? This is where I think the smile comes in. It is not so much an indication of what they think of you (thus is not subject to being fake), but as a means of conveying their attitude towards you.

A friendly smile says that they are approachable. An expressionless face indicates you don't exist. A scowl says your presence is not appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think a man that can keep his face "pure" in this sense, and not to consider other people's emotions in this context has reached a tremendous psychological achievement.

I think there's faking ones dealings with people, and then there's simply being aware of and controlling the emotions one shares with others. If I'm in a bad mood and I look at someone, this can inadvertently send the message that I disapprove of them somehow. The same is true if I think of something funny and smile - while usually harmless, it can also send an inappropriate message (such as during a funeral). The point is there is nothing transparent about facial expressions; we take a smile to mean that someone is feeling good, but we don't know what they're feeling good about. And we don't know the motive behind a "faked" expression, or even know for sure if an expression is in fact faked. Just as you can contort the muscles of your face to imitate a smile, so you can force yourself to think of something happy in order to hide other emotions. You can spot the first, but how about the second? And their reason for doing this is not necessarily irrational. Take the cover model you referenced. She had agreed to do the photo shoot, and implicit in that agreement is that the photographer get a smile out of her, even if she doesn't feel like smiling. We may be able to make certain conclusions based on the fakeness of her smile, but I don't think we can conclude that she's a dishonest person for it. And I know I've done it a million times with family, in order to have nice pictures to look at later.

Now, "acting nice" is potentially a different topic entirely. How would you distinguish between this "niceness" and simple politeness? You've focused on smiles, but is that the only thing you were thinking of?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This used to annoy me, too. Also, after having studied facial expression, it's extremely easy for me to pick up on disingenuousness. However, I've learned that it doesn't really matter if someone is offering me a fake smile. Over time, I've gotten less and less focused on others.

At first I thought, this is a good solution, or state of mind to be in. But I don't think I can or want to do this. I *want* to focus on the people I'm talking to. Especially assuming it could be a potential friend, I naturally focus on their voice, expression, and words.

In what way do you mean you are not focused on other people?

I don't mean that I'm not focused on their words, tone, facial expressions, and so forth. I mean that whatever those things convey, even if they are fake, it doesn't need to affect me personally or emotionally. If I see someone who is fake, I register the fact and move on. I don't get annoyed by it as it's not my problem. That's what I mean by not focusing on them.

I don't think I can focus on someone Ayn Rand style, and still not care about a fake expression. Can you?

It depends on the context. In a clinical context, a fake smile might be important for me to note. But in some relatively brief interaction (say a transaction with a bank teller), I could be highly focused on the person but still not care if I received a fake smile.

BTW, your posts are great. Just what I needed to get some meat on this discussion.

Thanks, Ifat. I'm glad you raised this interesting topic.

When in a social or public situation, I usually offer a pleasant look, a small smile or at least friendly eyes, to a person I am meeting. (This is in contrast to a big, broad, but fake smile, which I would never give.)

This discusses the degree, but not the fake/genuine distinction. Unless... would you say that these are genuine, spontaneous expression of your emotions at the time, or rather using your will to control your muscles/expression?

No, it's automatic. But that doesn't mean it is without thought. By that I mean one can put himself in a mental state that allows for certain emotions to happen. For instance, say you are going on a first date. Presumably you want to go on the date, look forward to it, anticipate what it will be like, and so forth. You would also presumably smile at your date when you see first see each other, even if you felt a little nervous.

In other words, you would have been mentally preparing yourself to enjoy the evening, and upon first seeing your date you likely automatically smile. You are not consciously moving your facial muscles into a smile, but you did consciously prepare yourself for that smile to come.

Ayn Rand, from what I can tell has a baseline expression of extreme interest in things and enthusiasm. When she talks to people she does not change (using control of her muscles) her expression, but rather let her expression reflect her immediate evaluation of someone, combined with the baseline expression of interest in the world and enthusiasm.

Yes, but I think we are mixing up different instances. I was thinking primarily of greetings, whereas your example here is about facial expression in the course of a discussion. I meant that I greet people pleasantly and it's genuine. As discussion begins and proceeds, my reactions are spontaneous and genuine.

There is no harm in being pleasant to strangers, nor is it disingenuous. I think it's an appropriate projection of a benevolent universe premise in one's demeanor and interactions with others.

I think whether or not there is harm, depends on your answer to my question if it involved voluntary control of one's muscles and expression. I think that such control* does damage one's well being. For starters, it automatizes a dissociation between one's expression and one's emotions. It is not coincidence that the magazine talks about "feeling dead inside". Feeling dead is a result of this kind of faking emotions. One, over time, loses touch with one's true feelings and becomes an empty vessel. This also influences one's self-esteem in a very heavy way. People who fake smiles, I guarantee you, also have self-esteem issues. But it's going to be hard to provide evidence for my last statement - maybe you can help here.

I think your point about the automatic dissociation between one's expression and one's emotions is really good. I agree that chronic faking of an emotional expression is a manifestation of some kind of psychological problem. I wouldn't say that every person who ever faked a smile has a problem, even if they did it more than once. It is when it is repeated and then, as you say, automatized that a problem is shown.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To make a point, I'd like to describe one approach that I think is completely flawed:

Thinking that a perfect person has a benevolent approach to people (supported by deduction from Objectivist principles), and because of that, a person is going to be nice to people.

Every time upon meeting a new person, reminding yourself "The perfect person is benevolent, so now think how wonderful it is to be benevolent (to be perfect), just like the perfect person is suppose to be, and if you smile you will actually be that perfect person". And then the person smiles and feels confidence as a result. What it is is nothing but cowardice and blind following. This is not self expression, nor selfishness. It is just like men who try to sleep with women to get self esteem, or like teenagers trying to immitate Roark's style to consider themselves good.

This is one example how focusing on intellectual analysis of being nice or not is actually (surprisingly) to avoid facing the problem - thinking that if you can explain why being nice is necessary intellectually, then there is no need to face any emotional conflicts involved.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A hello, a handshake, a conversation or opening a door are nothing at all like a smile. The natural state of a smile is one that comes spontaneously from emotions. It is a reflection of liking or enjoying the other person. Opening a door for your costumer is courtesy which reflects the required atmosphere for making business. Declaring to this person that you like him/her is not necessary. General approval is still not the same as enjoying someone. Enjoying the idea of earning more money from this person is still not enjoying or liking him/her. That's what makes the difference between a "greedy" smile and a smile of liking someone.

I think you are arguing from an incorrect premise here. Like with all expressions and body language context is extremely important. Saying that a smile is a reflection of liking or enjoying the other person is like saying that a frown is a reflection of disliking the person. Depending on the context though, a frown could mean that you are thinking very hard, or that you are skeptical or perhaps even curious to what the other person just said. Smiles can also mean alot of different things. They can be friendly, empathetic, a sign of enjoyment or perhaps something completely different, like a sign of disbelief("What? I cannot believe you just said that - are you serious!?", said with eyes wide and something resembling a smile to convey schock over what the other person just said).

To get the right intepretation we have to look at the situation and how that smile(or any other expression) relates to other expressions.

If a store clerk greets me with a small friendly smile I would take that as a sign that i'm welcome there as a potential customer. I don't think that's dishonest, assuming that they actually wan't customers there. However, if I see the clerk looking at his/her watch with a sigh, cleary hoping to close up the store early tonight, then i'd say it's a slight dishonesty leaving me under the impression that my presence was welcomed there(nothing that would bother me too much though, because I can understand that they want to treat every customer well, even if it means a slight inconvenience).

Then there are cases where the store owner would greet you with a big smile and treat you like their long lost friend. In such cases it's usually pretty safe to assume that he will try to sell you a dead horse while having you pay a small fortune for it.

If I was lost somewhere and aproached a stranger for help with directions I would also give a little friendly smile, or atleast a friendly look. This would basically happen automatically by shifting the focus from my own thoughts to the other person, and expecting something good to come from the interaction. What I want to communicate though is that my intentions are friendly and I don't want to bother that person more than necessary. As long as those are my intentions it's also perfectly honest and sincere.

Someone who only gives short answers to what you are saying and excuses himself with a slight smile is probably saying: "you are bothering me, but I don't want to be impolite...".

The thing I dislike about it is that it feels like a trap. It takes a lot from me to instantaneously identify if someone is smiling in a genuine way, or in a fake way, and yet it feels ungrateful or attacking in a way to return a flat face of indifference (or even a disliking face) for a smile.

I have never thought of it this way. Why do you feel it's ungrateful or attacking to return a flat face?

I do that all the time and neither feel good or bad about it. Maybe it's because I appreciate when people do that. It's like instant feedback when dealing with people: maybe they are listening intently, maybe that joke really wasnt funny, maybe i'm bothering them or maybe they just don't like me. Either way, unless I get very mixed signals, i'll know and that will make any future dealings easier for both of us.

Also, I don't think it's necessarily unfriendly in any way to return a flat face. I often do that when i'm curious, listetning, and want the other person to go on(which can also be coupled with a nod or other forms of acknowledgement).

I think a man that can keep his face "pure" in this sense, and not to consider other people's emotions in this context has reached a tremendous psychological achievement.

If I have understood you right, I think the concept here is innocence. And in that case, when seen in adults, I agree that it's a tremendous psychological achievement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites