Do you know someone who is ‘read’ by strangers as safe? Oozing a vibe that says “Yes, I can be your port in a storm”? I don’t know if it’s cosmic energy or something equally mystical but I’m often that person. You, too? The one who’s instinctively leaned on?
Before you say ‘Hey that’s a great quality’ let me share that I often think, at least in my case, it’s misplaced trust. I can be a nasty gal; grumpy and crabby and although I try not to sneer and cackle at strangers (I save that for friends and family – LOL!) I’ve always wondered why me?
I think I figured it out. Do you know about the Duchenne smile? I was clueless until a professor laid it on me in grad school. Evaluating my technique as a therapist-in-training I received plenty of unwelcome feedback (You ask too many leading questions…You need to become more comfortable with silence). Those were the most frequent critiques. But when he offered ‘Hmmmm…Duchenne smile’ as stoic three-word commentary, it was a head-scratcher. Huh? Doo-whooo?
Maybe you’re more informed than I was. I was annoyed that I needed to look up this Doo-sHEN dude to understand the point my professor was trying to make. Sheesh. It would’ve been easier if he’d just said, ‘You stink’. But spewing a reference to a type of smile? Throwing me off track, buddy. His delivery was that emotionless and monotone.
And so, I learned about Guillaume Duchenne and immediately regretted my caustic thoughts about my well-intending professor. Turns out, the whole “Duchenne” thing was a compliment. Yep – Guillaume Duchenne, scientist from two centuries ago was hell bent on mapping the human body and understanding musculature and movement – especially related to facial expressions. His work, while ground-breaking, was also the stuff of nightmares (Happy Halloween!) because he experimented mostly on decapitated heads. Ick.
Despite his morbid methods, Guillaume was a pioneer, documenting the importance of the eyes in determining what’s most genuine in a smile. Eyes engaged and crinkled? Eureka! That’s an authentic, Duchenne smile. Smiles that are more controlled, show less engagement of the facial muscles? Indicative of less authenticity, more reserved. Now I understand. The most famous example of all, is Mona Lisa’s non-Duchennian smile.
So, to hell with the crows feet and wrinkles, bust out your big grins and smile, people! Those half-hearted, staged-looking pouts are the stuff of indulgent selfies. Not real life.
Why is this on my mind? Masks and Covid made connecting so much harder. All the more reason to lean into the Duchenne smile, I say. Maybe that’s why random people seek some of us out for assistance. Authenticity for the win! 😊
Me? Left to my own devices and tendencies, I navigate the world with a grin and open body language – just because. I’m the one who greets people first with a ‘good morning’ or a hello. Especially during the pandemic when my smiles (Duchenne or not) were hidden. All the more important to get my crinkle on and “show” I was smiling, with my eyes. Mask or no mask now, I think I’ll keep Duchenne-ing.