You see it each week on “American Idol.” Broiling under the TV lights, the terrified singers grin their hearts out as they nervously wait to hear which of them America has voted out of the competition. They’re smiling, but are they happy? Certainly not!
They’re scared stiff, but they’re spreading their lips and baring their teeth in an attempt to project likeability and ease. It’s what scientists call a “fear grin” — used by chimps and apes to tell predators, “Hey, you don’t want to eat me, I’m just a cute monkey!”
So what does your smile say about you? That you’re happy? Excited? Embarrassed? A scared monkey? There are more than 50 types of smiles, conveying over a dozen emotions, from elation to trepidation. But the good news is that most of them are positive, and have an equally warm and soothing effect on the recipient, especially in dating or meet-and-greet situations.
The Sincere Smile
Unless you’re Simon Cowell, it’s almost impossible not to return a smile when greeted with one — especially if the smile is paired with those crinkly lines around the person’s eyes. Ladies, you may fret about hiding those lines, calling them crows’ feet, but they’re actually a huge clue as to whether or not you’re being sincere. Dubbed “Duchenne” lines by the man who discovered them, they’re the biggest sign of a person’s sincerity and are nearly impossible to fake.
The Fake Smile
Ever felt a politician wasn’t being sincere about their campaign promises even though they were grinning from ear to ear? That’s probably because only half their face is smiling, the bottom half, while their eyes, and their Duchenne lines, are ominously flat. These tips can be especially helpful on the dating scene, where signals can be hard to come by.
The Inviting Smile
Women often have the upper hand in these situations because they’re used to expressing emotions. With women, direct eye contact combined with an upturned smile is an obvious invitation to conversation. Another surefire way ladies reveal they’re interested in a mate is when, in conversation, they arch their brows to make their eyes seem bigger, lower their eyelids, tuck their chins down and to the side and giggle. This is usually a cue for a man to begin courting. But what about those stoic, hard-to-read fellas? You’ve heard it a thousand times but it’s true that 90 percent of men won’t approach unless invited. The fear of rejection is that powerful!
The ‘I’m Available’ Smile
Once approached, a man’s full-fledged toothpaste grin, teeth sparkling (think gorgeous George Clooney), combined with a raised brow is usually a green-light, full-speed ahead sign that a man is open to overtures. But other features can be more difficult to decipher.
The Shy Smile
A close-mouthed smile with corners upturned means a guy may be interested in romance, but is shy and needs encouragement. But a tight smile with his top lip stretched wide and upper teeth just barely showing means he’s politely enjoying your company, but probably doesn’t wish things to go further.
The Naughty Smile
According to body language expert Patti Wood, a half-smile, or naughty grin, suggests this playboy may not be looking for anything too serious. Proceed with caution — and check for signs of attachment, such as a wedding band or ring-finger tan line, before pursuing this Wile E. Coyote.
If you’re not sure which kind of smile you’re expressing, try out a few in your mirror at home until you find a confident one you like. Then practice that one until it comes naturally.
Try not to obsess over whether your smile is as camera perfect as Halle Berry or Julia Roberts. Tip: If you’re self-conscious about your teeth, try one of the many over-the-counter tooth-whitening products available for a quick boost.
Remember, babies start smiling at about eight weeks, just about the time their parents are ready to keel over from those midnight crying jags. If babies, and even chimps, can master the grin, so can you!