Did you know that today, October 2nd, is World Smile Day? What a wonderful day to celebrate. Our world can always use a few more smiles! Throughout my travels around the world I have found that a smile is one of the best things you can take with you everywhere you go. I have learned over and over again how beautiful and important our body language is–especially when you are in a place where you don’t speak the language.
As a native English speaker, I feel I can say that we often take our speaking ability for granted. English is widely spoken in most places in the world, so if you’re born speaking English, you are super fortunate. But, just because it’s widely spoken, doesn’t mean everyone can speak it. I have been in remote places where I am with people who only speak a few words of English, while I speak only a few words of their language.
A Lesson On Communicating
A great example of this was when I was teaching English in Thailand, I taught at a Thai government school and I was living in a very rural area of Thailand. Most of my students’ only exposure to English speakers was the few teachers they’d had, like me.
As you can imagine their level of English was fairly low. Some of them only spoke a few words. I remember my first few days of teaching because I realized pretty quickly in those initial days that I’d have to figure out a way to communicate with my students that wasn’t just with my words. My time in Thailand was so influential in terms of learning about communication–especially the ways in which we communicate with others when we don’t speak the same language.
After I returned home and reflected on the time I spent in that little village and the more people who asked how I managed to communicate without speaking Thai, the more I got to thinking about body language and the role it played in it all.
The Beauty of Body Language
Body language is such a powerful and beautiful thing.
I have distinct memories of conversations with people where I walked away thinking, “We only said 3 words to each other, but I know exactly what that person was saying.” It was this way with so many of my students in Thailand. It felt like I truly got to know them. I knew their personalities. But, I hadn’t had a full conversation with 90% of them.
Just think about all of the ways we show body language. The way we stand, our facial expressions, pointing, acting things out, laughter, posture, using your eyes and eyebrows. There are so many ways we show how we feel or communicate the things we want to say, without using a single word!
And the most powerful body language of all… a smile.
The Power of a Smile
A smile says so much about a person. For me, just thinking about the act of passing a stranger, making eye contact, and sharing a smile, makes me smile. In my opinion, it’s one of the best interactions you can have with another human. When you share a smile with someone, it’s almost like you know each other in an instant.
A smile is the same in every language! Smiling is a universal means of communication, and it has the power to make a difference. It’s something so simple that we can do more of, to make the world a better place. It not only affects your own health and happiness, but the happiness of those around you as well.
I believe body language is a true language of its own. We use it to enhance our verbal communication. The more I travel, the more I find myself in positions where I rely heavily on body language. So, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. The truth is, you can get by with a little bit of speaking, and a whole lot of body language. Don’t forget, the best thing you can pack on your next trip is your smile! 🙂