Monthly Archives: January 2011

Let a smile be your umbrella & a song your medicine

YIP Day 305 - Dale Carnegie

Image by Auntie P via Flickr

I’ve started reading Dale Carnegie‘s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, as part of a class led by our pastor. He tells us that the Bible has been the most influential book in his life, and the Dale Carnegie book is the second. The book is organized according to principles of this method, and under “Six Ways to Make People like You” is the chapter about smiling. People who smile are viewed more positively by everyone. If you smile when you’re talking on the telephone, people can hear that you are smiling — it has a significant effect on how you say things. Sometimes it’s hard to smile — some days are bad days, full of bad weather and misunderstandings, after all. The thing to do in that case is to smile anyway — and not so that you will put a good face on for the world — the smile itself will help you feel better. Carnegie quotes William James, the philosopher and psychologist of the nineteenth and twentieth century, and here I paraphrase — action often seems to happen after you experience emotion, but it is often the other way round — the best way to recover your cheerfulness is through action — to act as if that cheerfulness has already arrived.

I’m sure that anyone reading this book will discover that he or she has already figured out some of the points and put them into practice. With me, it’s choosing to smile and choosing to be as cheerful as possible. Even when I’m sad, I don’t let it affect my wish to offer people a smile. Smile at people you meet — because they’re your friends, or could become friends. Your smile makes them feel good, and their answering smile can do the same for you. It’s a source of strength in adversity — letting a smile be your umbrella against the cold rain of reality..

There is another thing that makes me feel very well even while carrying a load of bad day on my back. It is singing. I know a lot of songs, and I will sometimes choose one that makes me feel better, and sing it to myself. If I find myself alone behind a closed door — I will sing it out.

On one of those difficult days, the door in question being on the Men’s room, I was still singing while washing my hands, when another fellow came in and walked over to the stalls. As he passed, he said “Wow, you must be happy!” Reaching for a towel, I said “No, I’m not really happy today — singing is my medicine.”

There are different kinds of things that you can choose to do to help yourself out when you’re feeling sad. You could eat some chocolate — that’s almost always good. You could have an adult beverage — helpful, but more perilous. If you’re a shopper, maybe you could buy something to wear — pretty good but possibly hard on the pocketbook. These things are closed and self-directed — you do something for yourself in order to feel better.

Reinhard Trachsler, a 20th-century writer and philosopher, once wrote:

Laughter is a creative act that opens up the world of
fantasy and amusement; it is also a generous gesture.

It seems to me that smiles and songs, along with laughter, are also generous gestures, and forms of such self-medication that are open — they can make everyone you meet feel better, and there is no limit to how far your smile might go in making the whole world a kinder and happier place.

I am smiling at you right now, dear reader. Try it — it changes everything.

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