Three Empathic Traits to Assist You in Spotting a Fake Smile

The smile is a universal means of nonverbal communication. Authentic, it conveys warmth, a positive and harmonious image, and openness/vulnerability. All welcoming traits. But it can also be used as a weapon of deception by manipulators.

Science has studied smiles and their presentment. But, to date, the best way to distinguish the fake from the genuine smile is through our mirror neurons. People who are most efficient at telling the difference are those who have the most empathy.

The key to building your skills in spotting a fake smile lies in using your innate empathic traits to evaluate each smile as it arises. Keep these tips in mind as you go about your interactions.

Image: “Smile” by Garon Piceli is marked with CC0 1.0

Be Aware of Your Gut Reaction

Your first indication of trouble comes immediately. Pay attention to that instantaneous feeling. Most often it will be an unsettled feeling. But it may go beyond that to a feeling of doom, fear, or foreboding. Intuition often picks up signals that the mind doesn’t consciously recognize.

Increase your Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Increasing your EI builds empathy. It starts with the ability to perceive, understand, and regulate your own emotions. Doing so, you develop the ability to comprehend and navigate interpersonal relationships with compassion and discernment. As you get better at this, it strengthens your intuition and you automatically fathom differences in falsity vs. genuineness.

Increase Your Observational Skills

When someone begins to smile at you, focus on their eyes. Are they looking at you with positive intention? That’s good. Is their attention 100%, or do they exhibit some far-away dimension to their gaze? If you can focus in on this scrutiny, it won’t be long before your intuition takes over and you register the answers without thinking about it.

While the eyes themselves present subjective evidence, you can find more objective confirmation on either side of the eyes.

In 1862, a French neurologist named Duchenne de Boulogne discovered a trait that distinguishes a fake smile from a real one. The orbicularis oculi muscles (muscles that wrap around the eyes) will contract during an authentic smile. This motion creates what is commonly called crows’ feet in the skin parallel to the eyes.

While there are cunning and wily people who have discovered how to imitate this feature, it remains a stalwart characteristic of the genuine smile. Recognizing this phenomenon helps to validate whether you are observing an authentic or faked smile.

The first impression smile is an early indication of a person’s intent. Learn to read the smile and it will improve your interpersonal relationship acumen.

Copyright 2021, Monica Nelson

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