Friday, July 22, 2011


I was once told that someone didn't trust me because I smile too much. Claire Berlinski, who lives in Turkey, writes about the American propensity to smile a lot. Do we smile too much? And are our smiles insincere? Her comments were inspired by photographs of Secretary Clinton:
The photos I've posted are of our Secretary of State, who two days ago was in Turkey to discuss, among other things, strategic cooperation on terrorism. This was in the wake of a devastating attack that claimed the lives of 13 Turkish conscripts.

I'm looking at those photos and I know that what our highest public ambassador thinks she's conveying is, "friendship, unwavering solidarity, support, strength and optimism."

And I also know that many Turks, looking at this, will feel, even if they can't quite say why, "Americans are phony and they don't care about us. I don't trust them." They'll feel this no matter what she actually says, because the facial expression will look so odd to them. .... (more)
From the comments following the post:
  • Perhaps my favorite story about Leo Strauss: when he arrived in England from Nazi Germany, the English customs official had to blow his nose and said "excuse me." Strauss knew then and there he had come to remarkably different civilization (as no German official would ever do such a thing)....
  • ...[M]y first Estonian girlfriend told my parents that Americans come off as vapid and superficial, because they smile a lot, and ask "how are you," but don't really care. ....
  • Personally, I prefer the forced smile and enthusiastic greeting to the dour, morose customer service I often get. At the latter, I often feel like an intruder, where the employee wished I hadn't shown up, and was happy that I finally left. At the former, a phenomenon occurs that I'm not sure has ever been confirmed by any study, but that I am convinced exists - forced friendliness usually leads to actual friendliness. ....
  • Feeling follows behavior in many cases, especially in marriage. Hug your wife even when you don't much feel like hugging your wife, and, almost without fail, the feeling soon enough catches up with the act.
  • Few customers will buy anything from a jerk, so you have to be polite and kind at all times. Even if you're having a bad day.

    At first, you may just be putting on a show, but eventually, the forced politeness and sincerity becomes, well, sincere. I also noticed that just being nice to my customers made me feel better about my job and myself.
Does feigning friendliness lead to genuine friendliness? I think C.S. Lewis once said something to the effect that if you do the right thing you will come to feel as you ought.

How Strange America Looks -

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