Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Power of a New York Smile

Trish Rubin’s New York MINUTE

I've invited my good friend and amazing speaker, Debra Moorhead to New York, but I have to warn her about costs.Another friend of mine recently moved here to the upper west side of New York City and remarked about the high cost of living. She laughed, observing that everything here in the greatest city in the world seems to be based in the number 25, not 23, as the new Jim Carry psychodrama movie suggests. Someone parks your car overnight in a midtown garage, someone washes your West side apartment windows, someone hands you a grocery bag with one or two items downtown, and, in some restaurants on the East side, someone hands you a hamburger, and you got it. It’s $25.00.That’s seems to be the baseline cost of factoring goodtime living in the great city of New York.

Having that good time in Manhattan, is a challenge if you want to break the 25 Rule. I’ve tried engaging all my senses in the cause. I’ve eyeballed the “Cheap Eats” issues of city magazines trying to find the bargains. I’ve eavesdropped on more than one R train conversation, about downtown sleeper sites, listening for low cost entertainment tips. Mostly it’s the younger city crowd that knows where to find the goodtime bargains. Sniffing out the spots that millennial and Gen Y ers know can get you far. These younger New York hipsters’ depth of wallet share as they crisscross the city may be thin, but, they know a good time on a dime when they see it. Yet persuading my newly arrived friend of the possibilities, reminds me that the hunt for feeling good at a good price in Manhattan can become a part-time job.

I’d rather invest my energy in something that costs nothing, but brings a feel good power to this city wherever you are. It’s a freebie you won’t find on Craig’s List. It’s the cost of a smile in your day.

I think of my daughter, Alexandra, a Gen Y-er herself. From infancy, she woke up with a smile on her face. Before her eyes opened, she grinned. Her behavior at age twenty is still the same as she opens her eyes to New York each day. She’s wired for smiles. Research would say she is unique among us in this town, since a lot of us here, tourists not included, wake each morning, not singing New York New York, but with the stressful, “Oh Gosh, it’s morning again,” feeling. Even before we even hit the pavement and have to deal with the press of the crowds and the jockeying for position at the curb or on the train platform, we get that Groundhog Day reminder, that wake up call to the brain that it’s show time. Actually, our bodies do us a big favor and release a chemical, about an hour before we rise, to safeguard us from the daily jolt of awakening.

But, once out on the street, accustomed to the routine of beginning our day in the noise and the hubbub of the morning commute , even the grumpiest, “coffee guzzliest” New Yorker” among us should be ready to use the low cost power of a smile to create a good feeling that money can’t buy. That power creates a buzz that charges the city day positively. Research says that people who smile, who laugh, and who purposefully think about getting others to do so, are happier and less stressed, and more productive. This is not rocket science, but it is science. It’s social and behavioral science. I’ve tried it myself many times throughout New York, Most recently on 43rd street. Smiling a construction worker resulted in an interesting quick conversation that schooled me in the history of the building he was working on that day. Yesterday, I used the power of a smile to exchange that “buzz “with the coat check attendant in an east side office building. He smiled broadly thanked me for taking time to actually find my coat check ticket. Do you know how many New Yorkers are too lazy to even look for a coat check ticket in this city? The scowls alone that come from that activity could cause a communication power drain. SO what about it? If you were to do a small, action research project here on the streets of New York testing the theory of a power of a smile it might look something like this. Give it try.

· Create your own version of Groundhog Day, the movie. Follow the same routine, the same path, the same behavior for two days as you head to work. BUT, don’t interact. No morning TV .On the street, don’t smile, don’t look directly at people, use your iPod, read your paper. Be wrapped up in you. Extend it into the first hour at the office. Be very self-centered. Loose your coat check ticket and don’t care. Do this for two days.
· On the third day, wake up and smile. Put on a funny TV or radio morning chat show, laugh. Practice smiling in the mirror as you shave or do your makeup. Then hit the street, no iPod, unless for a few minutes of great upbeat morning music to lighten your mood. Begin to make eye contact as you follow the same routine with people, doormen, vendors, policemen, babies and their nannies. Nod and smile. Go to work with a bag of pastries, visit people and say hello. Offer them a treat. Call people by their names. Make it a point to breathe and exhale deeply, and keep smiling.

Now reflect for a New York Minute on that third day. What’s been different? Aside from gaining a few carbs from the pastries, you-- and everyone around you-- gained because of your purposeful focus on the energy of a smile. You’ve created, as social scientists say, a brain to brain bridge with people through your bridge of smiles. They’ve returned you the favor with their own energy, and make no mistake about it, it fuels you. Years ago Tom Peters revolutionized the business world with his organizational call to action, “MBWA”, Management by Walking Around. Today create a simple and powerful change in your business and personal life. Do it here in this city that is becoming more known for its hospitality than ever before. It’s a reason why people like my friend are choosing to come back to live in cities. Be a one person New York Good Will Ambassador. You can control how people view you, by “SAWA”, Smiling and Walking Around.

This past week, my dentist, the man I am trusting my smile to, and someone who believes in the power of a smile as he approaches dentistry, gave me a favorite book of his written by another New York patient. The book is, The Power of NICE, How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness. ( Linda Kaplan and Robin Koval ) The authors talk about the need to be genuine, not to be seen as calculating when you are projecting positive energy. Think of the power of smiling in that way. It’s got to be real and not forced, so practice in your day with safe smiles…doormen, policemen, bus drivers, shop clerks and tourists are great for smile work. You’ll know you are there in your New York smile when you grin at a child and they quickly smile back at you. Kids can tell the difference at a very early age between someone who is genuine and someone who is faking it.

Experiment and practice. And with the twenty-five dollars you save daily from this no cost approach to life, you can splurge. Forget the cheap eats for a day and invest in a hamburger with a friend at one of our many trendy New York places-- and smile as you pay the tab. You’ll create positive energy in Manhattan, attract good vibes, and maybe even welcome your morning wake up call the next day.

No comments: