Dave Lim

TEDx Ambassador, TEDxSingapore


This conversation is closed.

Do you have a story where yours or someone's smile totally changed the outcome of an unpleasant situation?

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. ~Phyllis Diller

A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks. ~Charles Gordy

The world always looks brighter from behind a smile. ~Author Unknown

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator

If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it. ~Andy Rooney

Life is like a mirror, we get the best results when we smile at it. ~Author Unknown

More quotes here http://www.quotegarden.com/smiles.html

Closing Statement from Dave Lim

Gratitude to and appreciate each and every one here for sharing your experiences and feelings.

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    May 14 2011: I hope this is an appropriate contribution. I agonized about telling it.

    A few years ago Ihad a cancer surgery that was very extensive. i was on a hospital floor where many people did not survive. Codes were called, doors were closed and someone was gone. I was told to walk the day after my surgery even with a huge open hole in my body and a morphine drip directly into my spinal fluid. The walking would help to speed my recovery.As I made my slow rounds of the hallways, I could not help but notice people who were really suffering. There were few smiles on that floor. Even the staff had the look of vigilance against death.

    Memory is often triggered by similarities and this reminded me that when I was a kid, I visited my grandmother as she lay dying and I noticed that every other room had flowers except hers. In my childish way I thought it meant that she was not loved as well as the other people. I must have told that story to my kids at some point because they flooded my room with flowers.On my walks circling the floor, I found a service room with vases and I began to make little arrangements from my abundance. I would sneak them into rooms without flowers when people were sleeping or absent.

    This little game I started with myself took my mind off my agonies and gave my walking a distracting purpose. It took me outside myself. Soon the hushed hallways had the occassional bright chatter of surprise and the mystery of the flowers brightened the place a bit. Soon there were smiles where none had been before. I got away with it for quite awhile and even when someone figured it out, they helped to keep the secret.

    There were more and more smiles in that place- a breathe of kindness- a spring of hope. I tell this true story not to elevate myself but to elevate us all. Sometimes we can make smiles happen by doing something miniscule. And the reward can be unexpected and hugely life affirming. After all - I'm still here- still smiling!
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    May 12 2011: I really love going into public and inflicting long awkward smiles on people. Today I went to a coffee shop to do homework, when I was ready to find a seat I looked around for the most closed up person I could, you know the one: sitting there with arms folded across his chest, wearing sun glasses even though he's indoors, that "on the defense" sort of posturing physically displaying how closed off they are to the world. anyways I sat down next to him and he crossed his legs, turned away and hid his computer screen by turning it as well, I turned with all the open posturing I could muster and just laid a big long creepy smile on the guy, like full on staring with wide eyes and forcing myself not to flinch (which is harder than you might expect). He could obviously tell I was not going away and as he turned towards me to say "what the hell are you looking at" I puffed out my cheeks and pulled on my ears to make a monkey face and then just busted up laughing. he started laughing as well and we struck a good conversation about human interaction. I do this all the time, especially when i'm in a bad mood. I'll hop on the train just to ride around and force people to interact with me. I like to draw people out to remind them that we are all here together and show them that there is nothing to be afraid of, we are all far more similar than we are different! GO OUT AND SMILE AT SOMEONE!
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      May 12 2011: I love that too Meher...it's fun to wear a smile, and your story makes me smile right now! I have a great visual of that scene:>) It reminds me of being on the subway in Paris once...standing in the front because all the seats were taken. As I was looking around smiling at everyone, most people smiled back. One woman was in that closed up position, with a frown on her face. When I smiled at her she quickly turned away, but kept opening to me a little more each time. I kept smiling and mentally sending her loving vibes. She kept looking back and I could see her warming up. After several glances, she actually gave me a big smile, and when she walked past me to get off, she said happily "good bye...have a nice day":>)

      I agree Meher, that we are all more the same than different, and smiling is something we can all do to help ourselves and all those around us feel better:>)
      "Make of yourself a light"
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          May 14 2011: Richard,
          I'm sure you know that many French people speak English. The piece that is important and precious to me, is that we made a connection with a smile:>)
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          May 14 2011: Hi Birdia,
          My brother and sister-in-law did a house exchange for a month with friends from Asnieres (just north of Paris). My son and I visited for two weeks, staying in the private home. It was a truly GREAT experience and makes me smile thinking about it:>) Yes, I did see Mona's smile.....probably one of the best known in history:>)
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          May 22 2011: Hey Richard, you are one of my faves and I would like to show the world what I think of you by having your name arranged in a list of people called my favorites. Do you think You could un-protect your page for a moment so that I can put your name on display and show everyone how fond I am of you? (oh, and i didn't get to respond to a question you asked in the poetry forum before it closed, worry not, no internet romances here; but it probably wont work out anyways, hence the willful suspense of disbelief), and to butt into the question you were asking Birdia, i would say it's only unethical if you get caught fibbing. After all, its not murder if there isn't a body.
          That is all.
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          May 22 2011: Seeing as how its after midnight on the 22st of May 2011, all the rapturing is over and i'm still here : (
          I don't think not fib/lying will improve my chances of getting beamed up by god. Anybody out there get raptured? whats it like, I bet its nice.

          I aspire to fall in love with a smile someday in Paris, maybe sooner than later.
          I like the art, it is compelling and doesn't feel over my head (though had you not explained it, it would have been)
    • May 13 2011: Oh, I love your story and your perception about smile and the difference as well as similarity. I do like smile to people but sometimes, I need to be cautious because of their hidden dangerous looking. Who knows? It's fortunate that your story turned out to be a funny conversation.
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    May 12 2011: When my father died of a brain tumor at age 60, I was in a sad place for months. Then one day a stranger smiled at me as we passed in a park and I was able to return the smile. At that exact moment, I began to recover from my sadness. It's been almost 20 years since that turning point and I still remember the feeling. Like a release.
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      May 13 2011: Thank you for bringing this hear Lynn. Interesting how two conversations at TED over a space of a few days seem almost designed to receive this iconic story and put it before people. I will never forget it and expect to have many many ocasions to retell your story. Thank you Lynn.
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        May 13 2011: I'm happy this is a helpful story and that we 'connected' again.
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    May 12 2011: I have a job where I talk on the phone all day. I answer calls, and convert those calls to sales. Now in my job, its easy to get into a rut, because if I take 5 calls, and each of those calls are no's, I can fall into a slump. But one day as I was working, I had taken several calls that were no, after no, and finally after falling into a slump myself, something in my head clicked (especially from all the training), I thought to myself, "on my next call, I will smile throughout the duration of this call, no matter the outcome." The reality is, the person a spoke to picked up on my smile, and so she to smiled, and listened to what I had to say. It turned into a sale, and the next 5 calls were all sales. The power of the smile is amazing, what we must remember is to use it, smile even when things are hard to comprehend. Smiling demands the answers to our dilemmas.
    • May 13 2011: yup, we can hear smiles over the telephone.

      now how do we do that on the interwebz? is this enough --> :)
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        May 22 2011: It is certainly a good start! : 0 )
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      May 13 2011: That is so true Samuel and Thomas! I used to do radio commercials, and smiling while delivering the lines totally changed the tone of the lines, which changed the whole feeling of the commercial! Smiling also gives ME joy:>) :>) :>)..........works for me:>)
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      May 13 2011: samuel..I love this story of a non visual effect on others of smiling..what is your theory about what is operating? Do you think in your story the act of smiling chnaged your attitude and the words you chose or the decision to smile was choosing that?
    • May 13 2011: I've read articles about how not only does your feelings make you smile, but it also goes the other way around - that smiling can produce positive emotions. I found this after a quick search: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1871687,00.html
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        May 13 2011: Good article Tim...thanks:>)
        There were studies done years ago indicating that smiling releases endorphins in the brain, which are mood enhancing and physically healing...laughter is good medicine:>)
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      May 24 2011: Yes! The time this effect really hit home for me was weirdly in an interview about making songs for a Gorillaz album, and trying to get a vocal quartet to sound like the Beach Boys. After trying and failing to get the right sound, this guy finally hit on the idea of recording three of the parts smiling and one frowning, and bingo - that was the sound he was looking for.

      That story has really stuck with me. My default expression, I realized back in high school, is one of seriousness, to the point where my friends would ask me what was wrong while I was just lost in thought staring off in space. I wonder how this has affected my emotional development over the course of my life. I try to smile more consciously now, but it's a slow process. Often I start by focusing on my breathing, then moving to the smile, and on to the people and environment around me (even if it's just me still sitting in front of my laptop).

      As the first reply said, we'll have to figure out how to express it more integrally over these interwebz!
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    May 12 2011: Some one once took exception to my driving and flipped me the bird. I smiled and waved. They did a double-take and waved back..
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      May 12 2011: Your story makes me smile Scott:>)
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    May 19 2011: Its a shame, havent been smiling a lot for quite some time due to life's difficulties. After reading all your posts, am resolved to start smiling a lot more.)
  • May 18 2011: I love to smile at people for no reason. Why? I had a professor who introduced me to the wisdom of Leo Buscaglia and it changed my life. Leo told a story that has always stuck with me since that time. He said there was a boy contemplating suicide. He decided one day to walk to Pacific Palisades (a place where many commit suicide) and if only one person smiled at him on the journey, he would not commit suicide. The boy never returned to class.

    If nothing else, we must share our smiles because it may be the only thing a person sees in an entire day to make them feel good, worthy, accepted, loved and wanted.
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    May 15 2011: What you say is so true. I have believed in the power of smile and seen how this also affects people around you...try smiling to the bus-driver, or to anyone you don't know, you will see the positive effect you get in return...
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    May 13 2011: I have one that I have used and suggested that others use. It is really quite powerful. Your teenage daughter goes out for the evening, and is expected home at, say, 11 PM. 11:30 and she's not home. You start getting worried. 11:45, your anxiety increases. By midnight you are getting really worried. 12:15 you are already imagining her somewhere on the side of the road and you are just about ready to call the police when she walks in. You know what the "natural" immediate reaction is going to be. But instead you put on a smile and give her a hug and say,"I am so glad to see you and that you are home safe." Then explain how worried you were. It works like a charm.....
    (But ain't always so easy...)
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    May 22 2011: This year I decided that my New Year's resolution was to smile more. OK I don't walk around with a smile on my face all day, but I do make a conscious effort to choose to smile more often. What I've noticed is that in doing so I feel better and also it has a positive impact on others, because you know what - people smile back.

    Another Open University student read a post I had written on the OU site about my big smily plan for 2011 and decided he would give it a go. He kindly got back in touch to tell me about how surprised he was with the results, so much so that he decided he was going to keep it up. How fantastic is that - and yes, it made me smile!

    So I think that smiling does change situations - maybe it even has the potential to avert a difficult situation - who knows.
  • May 22 2011: I am lucky enough to be a small business owner who gives and receives smiles (and occasionally hugs!) all day. It helps that my biz is gourmet popcorn and I am feeding people treats while sharing smiles. Occasionally I encounter a customer with a bad case of The Grumps - but they don't last long... how could it when confronted with sweetness and light in a bite-sized morsel?!
    For several years now I have a daily visitor who appears to be homeless in appearance (but isn't) and whom many other downtown businesses shoo away. Well-meaning friends have questioned the sense in my allowing her continued access to my shop and my phone and the occasional ride to take her to a fast-food place she likes to frequent. I remind them that she is persona non grata in so many places and I may be the only person that is kind to her. The small kindnesses she receives from me seem so simple and truly cost me nothing and at the end of the day I feel a wealth of satisfaction for having given them away.
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      May 22 2011: That is a good story and I like the you in it very much.
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      May 22 2011: Candy Allen-Smith,
      You said it all..."at the end of the day I feel a wealth of satisfaction for having given them away".

      "Life begets life,
      Energy creates energy
      It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich"
      (Sarah Bernhardt)

      P.S. Smiles, hugs and popcorn are all good:>)
      (Colleen Steen)
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    May 21 2011: I actually have a memory of a smile that has stuck with me for a while. I remember having a bad day (this was a few years ago) and being fairly upset when randomly a person walking towards me smiled at me as they passed by. It really made me feel better, and I've always remembered that stranger. I love smiling now :)
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    May 19 2011: In response to Meher's wonderful video addition, I add this one that I love (Ok it might be corny but I love it):


    My favourte part of this true story is when the tall young man gets down on his knees to hug the old lady and she touches his face. Just observe the sweet quality of the smiles on the faces of the people- both huggers and huggees!

    When my kids used to complain about cranky people- I asked them to ask themselves "Who hugs this person?" If the answer was 'no one' I asked them to forgive their crankiness as it was probably born of loneliness. It helped my kids to be more understanding people. I wish I had also taught them to just go ahead and hug people as this young man decided to do.
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      May 19 2011: I loved your video, Debra.

      My son is working at Subway and he says there is this lady who goes everyday, and is miserable and grumpy. I suggested she is unhappy, and for him to smile at her.. He is dubious, but who knows? It might help them both! I like your question to your children..
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        May 19 2011: Hi Alma! Here's to being a mother! Being a mother is one of the biggest priveleges of my life. As i taught them, I taught myself and they taught me more in a sort of virtuous cycle.
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      May 19 2011: That was AWESOME. I am going to make a FREE HUG sign and go out hugging right now!
    • May 22 2011: Thank you Debra! The world needs more hugs and more reminders that hugs are out there to be had if we just open our arms as well as our hearts.
  • May 19 2011: India it would be a bit dangerous for young girls to smile at boys /strangers. It would create misunderstandings.Smiling at little kids is perfectly acceptable and I indulge in it pretty often.Will have to attempt smiling more at the lonely and suffering.
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    May 18 2011: Behold! the happy train:
    disregard the brief interlude of propaganda if you'd like but recognize the shear brilliance and beauty of what this group is doing.
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    May 12 2011: I am so glad you have brought this conversation here. A smile is the universal language. It sys it all when words would fail . It opens all doors within and outwardly. I think smiling puts us into a place of equanamity and balance.

    I can't isolate one story and look forward to the stories of those who can..My most poweful experiences of exchanging smiles have been with young children and babies when they "announce" a discovery or insight with a smile,..and also the smiles o the dying which have a unique radiance.

    Elsewhere recentlyon TED someone told the story of a strangers smile bringing and almost spontaneous healing from the confusion and agony of deep grief. I will try to find it and bring it here via link.

    Know you will collect many wonderous stories here. Thank you.
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    May 22 2011: Honestly, I have walked through some "bad" neighborhoods and had to deal with some rough people. A smile, an acknowledgment and friendly eye contact have eased some scary situations.
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    May 22 2011: The first thing that I do every morning when I wake up is smile.

    This is because I believe in the following:

    1) In life, the best is yet to come
    2) As Carnegie rightly said - Your smile is a messenger of your good will. Your smile brightens the lives of all who see it. To someone who has seen a dozen people frown, scowl or turn their faces away, your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds
    3) Smiling makes us live longer

    Smiles don't only change the outcomes of bad situations, they prevent bad situations from happening.
    And just think to all those positive things that happen as a result of our smiles - the smile of a caring mother, the smile of a loving second half, the smile of the passer by, the smile when you got your job, the smile of a child... don't they all change our lives?

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    May 21 2011: I agree and my mission can be found here:

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    May 19 2011: I used to live in a big town where people did not smile at each other. Now I live in a village where it is just normal to smile at strangers one comes across. Now I smile at strangers even in the big town. It does make it much more pleasant to everyone, and strangers in the big town smile back!

    My dog just has to be himself and elicits lots of smiles..
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      May 24 2011: This is great - I was just away camping at an arts gathering this weekend where everyone smiled at, or even talked to, each other no matter whether known or unknown. I've tried to bring this back with me as well, and it works so well! I just have to keep at it - as I've said elsewhere, my default expression is rather serious, so I have to make an effort to be smiling.

      Being confronted with an unexpected smile always reminds me to widen my perspective, step back from any problems I may be having and gain perspective, consider others, and a longer term view. It creates connections where there could easily be none and brightens the world around it.

      Now I have to plug this upcoming TEDx conference in the Bay Area of California - TEDx Golden Gate ED is a fast-approaching conference that's all about Teaching Compassion (approaching that phrase from all possible angles). I'm helping them out with some social media marketing, but this is a something I am passionate about. You can join our community discussion here:

      and find out more about the conference here:

      I'm very excited to see what they have to say about smiles! The neuroscience side of smiles is super interesting, and I hope to learn more about other positive effects they spread, while I continue to spread them!
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    May 19 2011: To day I have a gray and gloomy day that slowly moves towards even darker shadows - I hate that feeling. So, I asked myself in an introspective conversation, what can I do to make myself feel better?! (nothing I've done so far has helped ) In that moment - by chance I accidentally stumbled into TED and this talk about the smileeffect.

    After reading a while I thought to myself - Maybe this is it? Can this be the answer to my question!? So I began to smile at my computerscreen. (silly, I know) But because I felt so weird, some tears came into the picture as well. But I ignored them and continued to read all the posts while I smiled and smiled and smiled. Actually I have to admit that my smile at the time more looked like a sad pathetic grimace than a genuine smile. But after reading a while I actually began to smile for real! Slowly but surely my smile started to feel authentic and honest, despite the fact that my tears still flooded my eyes and my heart stubbornly was hovering in the shadows.

    Suddenly, I don't really know how it happened, but I just started to feel better and better - to my amazement. And now I can only say that it really works to smile! Even if you smile alone - at yourself or a computerscreen! Even when you smile reluctantly with tears in your eyes, the brain responds chemically and actually tells you to feel better!

    Of course the posts that I read here was the reason why I smiled with a genuine feeling. It's there, in that true honest feeling where the miracle occurs and the brain starts to respond. But still, the message is that a smile can bring you miracles!

    I even got enough of energy to write this down - amazing or what? Unfortunately, I now feel that my energy is about to end. So I may have to read some more of encouraging messages while I squeeze out a few more smiles. But after that - I'm on my way again:)

    Lღ√Ƹ to you all!
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      May 19 2011: Dear Iwanca, Welcome!

      I, for one (and I feel that there are MANY more), am thrilled to hear that you are smiling! I hope it catches hold deep down! If you stick around to enjoy other TED conversations I guarentee that you will smile more often- sometimes when you least expect it- because I find myself unexpectly smiling and sometimes laughing out loud at the varieties of insight!
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        May 19 2011: Your words took me over the threshold again! You made me smile, not just with my mouth, my facial muscles, my brain - but above all, with my heart! Thank you Debra!

        PS I'm really looking forward to enjoy a lot of smiles :) and laughters :D here!
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    May 17 2011: smiling is fun and it sure is contagious.

    here in india smiling at strangers, greeting stangers in a lift or as they cross you on the road is just not done.

    but there is a way around it. and that is children.
    i noticed this just now as i saw this talk and read through these comments that i have a habit of smiling at/ greeting / talking to children regardless of where i come across them and whether i know them at all.

    at a waiting room, in a queue, in the rear window of a car thats in front of yours- everywhere. if you smile at them, wave hands, call out to them they will respond. and unhesitantly and happily.
    and thats a great way to punctuate everyday with some nice moments.

    Like there is this tiny girl who stands at her window when i enter my office every morning. she can hardly talk yet, but everyday when i pass by we have a routine of waving and smiling that we both wait for.
    or the kid in someone's arm will smile back and even extend a hand as you're standing in a lift.

    now that i think about it- i'd also recommend it highly. go ahead and try it. you'll be surprised at how nice it can make you feel
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    May 15 2011: The smile is both man's greatest asset and power, but also ma's most potent weapon that can wound in surprising ways.

    To me, the smiles of nurses have been ruined, by one single insincere act. I was around eight or nine, I'm not sure of the date anymore, but I remember being at eye level with a hospital door handle. I was wandering through a hospital. My mother had just been interred into the ICU, and they had outsted me and my tinyness, thinking me too young to want to know the pain her mother went through. On her door, there was an orange hazard sign. I didn't know what it meant until later, but the impression stuck after this moment. I had lost myself in the maze of hallways catacombing through the place like snakes. Suddenly, I saw a light that was out of place. A hospital is a place full of small glittering lights, but this one... this one was odd. It was in the hands of a very old woman, sitting in a hospital bed. Being the self-righteous little monster that I was, I burst in on her, hands on hips, demanding her ciggarette. She looked at me and laughed dryly, and then began to unscrew the end of her ciggarette. She told me it was a plastic one, that only shot out steam. Then she asked where my mother was. I said in a room with a big orange sign where the doctors never went in without masks.

    Then she smiled. It was the saddest, most pity filled smile I have ever seen to this day. I ran away, and hid with my father in the waiting lounge. Although I've forgotten her name, I still remember that awful, painful smile. One may say that a smile can save a life, but it can also terrify another.
  • May 14 2011: My brother Danny MC'ed a wedding for a friend where in the middle of hte reception the groom's 95 year-old aunt dropped dead at her table. They thought about cancelling the rest of the reception. My brother asked, "What would she have wanted?" the gren oom said, "to have fun." My brother took the microphone, went to the front of the dance floor and in a phony Disc Jockey voice said, "Are you ready to laugh??????" and took a pause and let everyone be uncomfortable. THen he said again, "I can't hear you.....are you ready to laugh??????" Then he paused, and finally somebody snickered at the obvious uncomfortableness of the situation. Then the one snicker turned to two, which gave the room permission to laugh at the obvious "You can't make this kind of bad up" irony of the situation. In the end, while eveyone was sad at the loss, the wedding reception itself was a happy memory.
  • May 12 2011: I don't have a story, but I am sure many people have one, because I believe smiles improve relationships by relieving social tension. I believe that smiling is a vestigial remnant of gestures used by primates to acknowledge more powerful members of the community. When we smile, we unconsciously acknowledge the rank of the person we are smiling to. That acknowledgement says "yes, I am subordinate" to the receiver, and in so doing diffuses competitive tension. When women are in a tense situation, they often smile, which relieves the tension. But in the company of a male, that smile amounts to a subordinate "yes". That is, in my opinion, one reason why women get raped. They say "no" but they unconsciously smile - and that smile says "yes. The man does not hear the "no, he sees the "yes". Avoiding a smile when you say "no" is surprisingly difficult, but it is necessary if you really mean "no".
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    May 12 2011: I'm sure everyone has experienced the feeling of smiling thu your tears. It's one of the best feelings in the world, and somewhat rare unless you have a s.o. like my boyfriend. Anytime I'm really sad about something, he goes out of his way to crack jokes; he's a witty guy, extremely punny. Sometimes it takes a few jokes, but he always coaxes at least a smile, if not a full-blown laugh.

    That is when the despair, while not completely gone, it lifted just enough for a brief amount of time to remember and realize that it is going to be okay; I'll get thru it and happiness is just a laugh away.
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