Operation Smile


When I moved to Windsor, the immense warmth of everyone that I met took me by surprise. No matter who it was, I was always greeted with a smile, nod, or brief greeting. Initially, I thought it was because there was something welcoming about me. A few weeks later, I realized that it was simply the norm of the city. Soon, I forgot the social training that I’d received during my childhood years in Brampton and began to think that everyone else behaved that way too.

Six years later, I left the town that I’d really grown to love and embarked on a new adventure in London, Ontario. Eager to meet new people, I continued my hometown’s custom of greeting whoever I met with at least a smile. What I found made my heart skip a few beats. I’d forgotten that in bigger cities like London and Toronto, people don’t have time to acknowledge each of the hundred or so people that they meet. In cities of this size, the average person will try to avoid eye contact altogether and do the awkward looking away, checking their phone technique that is so overused. My question is, why do we do this?

A smile is a simple, yet extremely sweet gesture. We usually greet people that we know with a smile because really, floor-mate misunderstandings can get out of hand with just one misplaced smile. However, I’ve noticed that people around campus are a lot less willing to return my smiles. So, I’ve put together a list of things that might be going on in your head when you pass by someone on campus and try to avoid them.

Shaily’s Top Five Excuses for Not Greeting Strangers and their Rebuttals

  1. I just got in a fight with my significant other, my mom keeps bugging me, my don’s on my case about those drinking games last night and I’m already late for class. I just have too much going on to acknowledge this person.

Yes, I agree. You do have a lot going on. At times like these, when the scowl seems to be pasted on to your face, forcing a smile will help lift your mood a little. Even if it was forced the first time, I promise that the other times after it will not be.

  1. They didn’t greet me, so why should I greet them?

It may be a little intimidating greeting someone that doesn’t seem to be responding to you. However, respect doesn’t always start off as a two-way street. Someone has to make the first move and if that has to be you then all the more power to you and your courage.

  1. They’ll think I’m weird for smiling at them.

Let’s be real: are you ever going to see this person again? The chances that they’ll remember you specifically are extremely slim. And even if they do, all they’ll remember is that one awesome person that they met on the street that had the courage and friendliness to greet a stranger.

  1. What if they think I’m extending an invitation for a conversation?

A socially trained person like you has been taught how to get out of unwanted conversations. Especially in a campus setting, there are a million excuses that you can shape up if you don’t have time for more than a simple “Hello”. If you’re a little rusty on that aspect of your social training, this will be the perfect exercise.

  1. I’m too sleep-deprived and tired to be friendly.

I get it: sleep over smiles. However, did you know that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown? The more you muscles you use for movement, the more energy you’ll require. So, biologically speaking, smiling is actually better for preserving your energy than frowning.

The list really could go on but I think you get the point. Smiling is not only good for your mental health; it’ll enrich your interactions with people on campus. So smile Mustangs! Let’s make Western a friendlier place, one smile at a time!

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