Measure Your Smiles

Measure your smile? That’s right. Women leaders and North Americans doing business abroad should be aware of how often and under which circumstances they show those pearly whites. Why?


As Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD. writes in Ten Body Language Mistakes Women Leaders Make, if a woman leader wants to appear credible, influential and sure of herself, she must understand the nonverbal cues she’s emitting.  While smiling is a definite indication of warmth and openness, it can also send mixed signals and zap a woman’s reputation as a leader.  This can particularly be the case if you smile while articulating dissatisfaction, providing a less-than-positive evaluation or speaking about an important topic.


From an international business standpoint, too many smiles and exclamation points (“Wonderful!”, “Super!”) make North Americans seem less credible abroad.  Simply put, North Americans who over employ these words appear unrealistic, sometimes to the point of looking over-the-top, to many of their more stoic foreign counterparts.


Now, again, this is not to say that women and North Americans shouldn’t smile, be happy or take on a positive attitude.  What it does mean is that if you fall into one of these categories and want to be well respected by male or multinational colleagues, then make sure that when you do turn your lips upward or declare satisfaction and encouragement that it is done so in ways that contribute to your success.

   Colleen Slaughter specializes in leadership development and executive coaching for women. She has spent over 20 years – 13 of them in Europe – working with and consulting individuals and organizations from over 35 countries. In 2009, Colleen founded Authentic Leadership International where she lives out her passion for helping people in international leadership roles achieve lasting, satisfying change.

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