A Simple Way To Make A Good First Impression

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I recently attended a dinner party in New York. One of the guests, a woman who had inherited money, was eager to make a pleasing impression on everyone. She had squandered a modest fortune on sables, diamonds, and pearls. But she hadn’t done anything whatever about her face. It radiated sourness and selfishness. She didn’t realize what every man knows: namely, that the expression a woman wears on her face is far more important than the clothes she wears on her back. (By the way, that is a good line to remember when your wife wants to buy a fur coat.)

Charles Schwab told me his smile had been worth $1 million. And he was probably understating the truth. For Schwab’s personality, his charm, his ability to make people like him were almost wholly responsible for his extraordinary success; and one of the most delightful factors in his personality is his captivating smile.

I once spent an afternoon with Maurice Chevalier—and, frankly, I was disappointed. Glum, taciturn, he was sharply different from what I expected—until he smiled. Then it seemed as if the sun had broken through a cloud. If it hadn’t been for a smile, Maurice Chevalier would probably still be a cabinet-maker, back in Paris, following the trade of his father and brothers.

Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says: “I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.”

That is why dogs make such a hit. They are so glad to see us that they almost jump out of their skins. So, naturally, we are glad to see them.

An insincere grin? No. That doesn’t fool anybody. We know it is mechanical and we resent it. I am talking about a real smile, a heart-warming smile, a smile that comes from within, the kind of a smile that will bring a good price in the market-place.

The employment manager of a large New York department store told me he would rather hire a sales girl who hadn’t finished grade school, if she had a lovely smile, than a doctor of philosophy with a sober face.

The chairman of the board of directors of one of the largest rubber companies ‘in the United States told me that, according to his observations, a man rarely succeeds at anything unless he has fun doing it. This industrial leader doesn’t put much faith in the old adage that hard work alone is the magic key that will unlock the door to our desires, “I have known men”, he said, “who succeeded because they had a rip-roaring good time conducting their business. Later, I saw those men began to work at the job. It grew dull. They lost all joy in it, and they failed.”

You must have a good time meeting people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you.


I have asked thousands of businessmen to smile at someone every hour of the day for a week and then come to class and talk about the results. Has it worked? Let’s see . . . Here is a letter from William B. Steinhardt, a member of the New York Curb Exchange. His case isn’t isolated. In fact, it is typical of hundreds of others.

“I have been married for over eighteen years,” writes Mr. Steinhardt, “and in all that time I seldom smiled at my wife or spoke two dozen words to her from the time I got up until I was ready to leave for business. I was one of the worst grouches who ever walked down Broadway.

“Since you asked me to make a talk about my experience with smiles, I thought I would try it for a week. So the next morning, while combing my hair, I looked at my glum mug in the mirror and said to myself: ‘Bill, you are going to wipe the scowl off that sour puss of yours today. You are going to smile. And you are going to begin right now.’ As I sat down to breakfast, I greeted my wife with a ‘Good morning, my dear’, and smiled as I said it.

“You warned me that she might be surprised. Well, you under-estimated her reaction. She was bewildered. She was shocked. I told her that in the future she could expect this as a regular occurrence, and I have kept it up every morning now for two months.

“This changed attitude of mine has brought more happiness in our home during these two months than there was during the last year.

“As I leave for my office now, I greet the elevator boy in the apartment house with a ‘Good morning’ and a smile, I greet the doorman with a smile. I smile at the cashier in the subway booth when I ask for change. As I stand on the floor on the Curb Exchange, I smile at men who never saw me smile until recently.

“I soon found that everybody was smiling back at me. I treat those who come to me with complaints or grievances in a cheerful manner. I smile as I listen to them, and I find that adjustments are accomplished much easier. I find that smiles are bringing me dollars, many dollars every day.

“I make my office with another broker. One of his clerks is a likeable young chap, and I was so elated about the results I was getting that I told him recently about my new philosophy of human relations. He then confessed that when I first came to make my office with his firm he thought me a terrible grouch—and only recently changed his mind. He said I was really human when I smiled.

“I have also eliminated criticism from my system. I give appreciation and praise now instead of condemnation. I have stopped talking about what I want. I am now trying to see the other person’s viewpoint. And these things have literally revolutionized my life. I am a totally different man, a happier man, a richer man, richer in friendship and happiness—the only things that matter much after all.”


Remember this letter was written by a sophisticated, worldly-wise stockbroker who makes his living buying and selling stocks for his own account on the New York Curb Exchange—a business so difficult that 99 out of every 100 who attempt it fail.


You don’t feel like smiling? Then what? Two things. First, force yourself to smile. If you are alone, force yourself to whistle or hum a tune or sing. Act as if you were already happy, and that will tend to make you happy. Here is the way the late Professor William James of Harvard put it:

“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.

“Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there . . .”

Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.

It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it. For example, two people may be in the same place, doing the same thing; both may have about an equal amount of money and prestige—and yet one may be miserable and the other happy. Why? Because of a different mental attitude. I saw just as many happy faces among the Chinese coolies sweating and toiling in the devastating heat of China for seven cents a day as I see on Park Avenue.

“Nothing is good or bad,” said Shakespeare, “but thinking makes it so.”

Abe Lincoln once remarked that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” He was right. I recently saw a vivid illustration of that truth. I was walking up the stairs of the Long Island station in New York. Directly in front of me thirty or forty crippled boys on canes and crutches were struggling up the stairs. One boy had to be carried up. I was astonished at their laughter and gaiety. I spoke about it to one of the men in charge of the boys. “Oh, yes,” he said, “when a boy realizes that he is going to be a cripple for life, he is shocked at first; but, after he gets over the shock, he usually resigns himself to his fate, and then becomes happier than normal boys.”

I felt like taking my hat off to those boys. They taught me a lesson I hope I shall never forget.


I spent an afternoon with Mary Pickford during the time when she was preparing to get a divorce from Douglas Fair- banks. The world probably imagined at the time that she was distraught and unhappy; but I found her to be one of the most serene and triumphant persons I had ever met. She radiated happiness. Her secret? She has revealed it in a little book of thirty-five pages, a book you might enjoy. Go to your public library and ask for a copy of Why Not Try God? by Mary Pickford.

Franklin Bettger, former third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, and now one of the most successful insurance men in America, told me that he figured out years ago that a man with a smile is always welcome. So, before entering a man’s office, he always pauses for an instant and thinks of the many things he has to be thankful for, works up a great big honest-to-goodness smile, and then enters the room with the smile just vanishing from his face.

This simple technique, he believes, has had much to do with his extraordinary success in selling insurance.


Peruse this bit of sage advice from Elbert Hubbard—but remember, perusing it won’t do you any good unless you apply it:

“Whenever you go out of doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every hand-clasp. Do not fear being misunderstood and do not waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Try to fix firmly in your mind what you would like to do; and then, without veering of direction, you will move straight to the goal. Keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do, and then, as the days go gliding by you will find yourself unconsciously seizing upon the opportunities that are required for the fulfilment of your desire, just as the coral insect takes from the running tide the element it needs. Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, and the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into that particular individual. . . Thought is supreme. Preserve a right mental attitude— the attitude of courage, frankness, and good cheer. To think rightly is to create. All things come through desire, and every sincere prayer is answered. We become like that on which our hearts are fixed. Carry your chin in and the crown of your head high. We are gods in the chrysalis.”


The ancient Chinese are a wise lot—wise in the ways of the world; and they have a proverb that you and I ought to cut out and paste inside our hats. It goes like this: “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.”

And speaking of shops, Frank Irving Fletcher, in one of his advertisements for Oppenheim, Collins & Co., gave us this bit of homely philosophy.

The Value Of A Smile At Christmas

It costs nothing, but creates much.

It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.

It happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts for ever.

None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.

It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature’s best antidote for trouble.

Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away!

And if in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?

For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!


So if you want people to like you, Rule 2 is: