Select the right words. Say them well.


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If you remember NOTHING else I’ve ever written, remember the title of this Monthly Memo.


The very simplest piece of advice I can provide for you is that a smile will do more for you than just about anything else I can tell you. And frankly, for many of us, someone has to tell us! I have worked with literally thousands of smart, accomplished people. Almost across-the-board, I’ve had to remind them to smile.

Why we struggle with the smile:

The first step in understanding why we rarely smile when we really should can be explained by thinking about when we naturally smile. Think about it. We smile when we’re happy. When we are around people we like. When we are RELAXED! Now think about having a critical conversation or giving a speech or going into a job interview or a room full of strangers. Smiling now?


The moment when we are hoping to come across well, or connect with someone or make a good first impression we tense up – we close down – we put on at the very least a passive face and, in the worst case scenario, we look like we’re ticked off!

There are cultural, religious, sexual, generational, financial and political divisions we can experience in our world. We can certainly see those walls in business. And the smile can bridge them all. The smile says so much beyond just its obvious friendly first impression. When you smile you say you are aware of the other person. You say you are willing to listen to what they might have to say. You say you are open to them, that you are accepting. The smile opens doors, and it shows a level of intelligence and attention.

And here’s why it makes such a difference. When someone has a great, appropriate smile we are much more likely to listen, trust and invest some of our time. We are willing to open up. We’ll give someone the benefit of the doubt because they have not given us a reason to doubt. Conversely, the frown creates concerns. It raises questions. “Is there a problem?” “Have I unknowingly done something to displease this person?” “What’s wrong?”

So the next time you are prepping for an important meeting, speech or presentation, have all of your thoughts in order, the research ready and plans for any objections. Then, finally, remind yourself to relax just a bit – and smile.


A longer version on this topic will be found in my new book, which will be available this fall. Stay tuned!


Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: