5 types of smiles


Smiling at someone can make their day a lot better. It also can make you feel lighter, by simply changing your expression from a scowl to a smile. But… if your smile is not genuine, it will be noticeable. Most of us know when a smile is real and when it isn’t. We don’t always know how we know this – we just know that we know. Here are some clues to identify smiles:

  1. The Genuine Smile:
    • Genevieve (the main character in my books) would give you all the muscles in the face as they move. I will just tell you that you can identify a 100% genuine smile when the corners of the mouth draw up, the cheeks lift and the outer edges of the eyes crinkle to form crow’s  feet. I am very proud of my laughter lines – not ever to be called wrinkles. They are proof that I am happy!
  2. The Polite Smile (fake!!):
    • The corners of the mouth don’t move up, but rather sideways towards the ears. The eyes will show little emotion and most definitely won’t show off any laughter lines. I catch myself with this smile when I’m asked to pose for a photo. Please, please catch me unawares! Then you will get a real smile. Posing makes me feel false and it clearly shows in my smile.
  3. The Tight-lipped Smile:
    • It can be a genuine or a fake smile, but will be perceived as a fake smile at most times. A toothy smile usual implies openness and honesty, whereas concealing your teeth is read as hiding something. It is sometimes used when a woman doesn’t want to let a man know she really likes him. It can also be when someone is hiding a secret or trying to look mysterious, or an ever more practical reason of someone trying to hide crooked teeth. I’m guilty of this smile when I’m asked to pose for a photo. Really… don’t ask me to pose!
  4. The :-/ smile:
    • One side up and the other side down. It’s a Western world thing we do and is not a very spontaneous action. It is quite deliberate and sends a message of sarcasm. Do you do this one? I don’t. Not even when asked to pose. It might be because I don’t often use sarcasm.
  5. The smirk:
    • Or the ”permanent’ smile. This is a non-genuine smile, very much like the polite smile. I’m putting this one in its own category, because it is quite interesting how culture-specific this is. Even in the US, this will be perceived differently from area to area. In some countries, smiling ‘too much’ is perceived as highly suspicious. In other countries, you are definitely hiding something, or you are planning something nefarious. In other places you are being polite, just like your mama taught you. I had a friend who would smile even when she was telling me how sick her little baby was and how traumatic all the medical tests were. It seemed off and completely inappropriate, but within her culture it was completely acceptable.

Which of these five do you use most? All five? Only two? It might be a fun exercise to watch people’s smiles and try to identify which on of these they are.





2 thoughts on “5 types of smiles

  1. In the mid 90’s when I first moved to Moscow and used to travel on the underground no one makes eye contact and no one smiles. I thought this very strange so on occasion I tried to make contact and smile – I always got a bland stare back. I still persisted in trying to make eye contact and give them a smile hoping to get one back. Very very seldom was I lucky. I eventually found out that Russians perceive people who smile for no reason, simple a bit of an idiot! I learnt cultural awareness is so important when living in a new country!


    1. So true! It is a large world out there. What we perceive as a friendly, polite gesture (in this instance a smile) in an other culture could mean something else. In the far east it is quite common for people to smile when they have made mistakes – that can be seen by westerners as rude, but in their culture it is showing their contrition.

      Thanks for sharing your story about Russia – interesting!


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