Smiling Science: How to Grin and Wear It

Darryl Davis salutes your resilience as a real estate professional, being able to make it through the lean years and come out on the other side. He also recognizes that when one problem in real estate is solved–such as a foreclosure crisis–it’s usually followed by other difficulties, such as the inventory shortages that real estate professionals are having to deal with across the country.

Credit: Steven Depolo

“You thought you had to smile when the market was bad?” Davis says. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

But Davis isn’t all about doom and gloom. The speaker, trainer, standup comic, and real estate professional is on a mission to get real estate professionals smiling more.

Davis expects his new book—How to Design a Life Worth Smiling About—to be available by the time NAR’s annual conference rolls around in November. Until then, he’s determined to get the word out about why people should start smiling more. I saw him in action at NAR’s Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington last week, and I have to admit that I’ve been smiling more ever since.

He cites studies (like this one as published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) that show that smiling actually makes you feel better. Even when you’re having a tough time, a smile can fool your brain into mitigating your negative attitude with natural chemical stimulants such as serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine, Davis says.

“The smile is a trigger, like a light switch, to tell the brain to produce these chemicals,” Davis says. “It tells the brain, ‘Hey, hello! I’m happy down here; give me some of those chemicals.’”

Davis also mentioned studies that found smiling people are perceived as more attractive and tend to have longer life expectancy. But the benefits go well beyond one’s own well-being. Davis says smilers can spread the love like a contagion.

“It gives people permission to smile,” he said. “Our smiling is our tail wagging… it makes you more approachable.”

Davis’ 40-minute talk was part of the Leadership Express sessions at Midyear, created especially for people in leadership positions, including volunteer leaders, association executives, staff and membership. Davis’ message wasn’t exclusively for leadership, but he did acknowledge that wearing a smile as a leader can make an especially important difference in the work environment.

“You can’t lead people if you look like you were weaned on a pickle,” Davis joked. “Smiling is so important to the success of a human being that really it is a leadership tool.”

But what if you just can’t crack a grin? While Davis strongly believes you should “smile, especially when you don’t feel like it,” he’s got a trick up his sleeve for the forever frowny: Bite a pencil. Using those same muscles might just fool your brain into thinking you’re smiling.

Then again, you might look sillier with a pencil in your mouth all day that you would if you just smiled. But hey, whatever makes you happy, right?

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. Vegas Lady

    Seriously? NAR actually hired Mr. Davis to tell real estate agents that they need to smile more and everything will feel better? Could there possibly be anymore smiley and friendly folks on the planet than real estate agents? Even in this gloomy market agents are out there everyday smiling in the face of adversity and many times it’s while they’re losing their own homes and business. The article from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology was laughable. Some one actually paid these people to write something so complicated just to say that smiling is a good thing? I get compliments all the time about my “great smile” but it doesn’t change anything in the crazy foreclosure/low inventory/short sale market I deal with everyday. It’s more akin to “grinning and baring it”. .

  2. I believe a smile or a facial expression that encourages some sort of communication is necessary in our business. How many times have you wanted to ask a question, have a real interest or wish to add the conversation or event and the person has this blank, or worse angry look on their face…complete turnoff! That is how our buyers, sellers and fellow professionals see us – smile and stand tall – if you believe you are doing a good job and providing a needed service. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of this!

  3. @VegasLady loved your comment. May I be so bold as to encourage you to “Grin & BEAR it”? Just sayin’…

    PS: I’m smiling.

  4. Darryl Davis

    MaryBeth – you are so right. That is one of the things I talked about. Smiling makes you more approachable with buyers and sellers and it’s a key ingredient to powerful communication.

  5. Suzanne

    In 2012 I made a new year’s resolution to make at least one stranger smile every day. I’m going on two years with this in my head and every day and go out of my way to make it happen. That’s what makes me smile 🙂