How to Smile (For Mixologists)

How to Smile (For Mixologists)

Smiling is one of the first things we’re told to do as kids, but we don’t really know what smiling means or why it’s important.  As Mixologists, dealing with people on a daily basis, knowing how to smile can make a huge difference in increasing tips, and even getting a job.

Where does smiling come from?

Even though now people smile when they’re happy, that’s not where the act originated.
Most biologists agree that smiles in Primates are an act of submission.  It’s a way of saying “I’m not a threat.  I come in peace.”  It’s interesting that most of our social rituals are ways of saying “I’m not a threat!”  We bow low in Japan, exposing your neck to a sword and lowering your eyes as an expression of trust.  We shake hands and raise our hands to say hi, and to show we’re unarmed.  But smiling is the most important and deeply rooted of all social rituals.  If you want to make any kind of connection with anyone, you have to be willing to be vulnerable.

If you can be open, vulnerable, and happy about it, you can actually put people around you at ease and even make them feel better.  You have nothing to fear and nothing to hide.  And you have that mystical quality we call “confidence” or “grace.”

It’s all in the smile.
Why is smiling useful for Mixologists?
Most people come in with a pretty good idea of how much they’re willing to tip, and how much they are going to spend.  If you want to make more tips you either can persuade them to spend more (up selling, which is often misunderstood and will be discussed later), or you can get them to see you as a human being instead of a bartender, and connect with them, so they will tip you better than the number in their head.

In a restaurant or lounge, you may have time to demonstrate your personality, to talk about the food, and recommend drinks, but in a club on a Saturday night, you may only have time to look someone in the eyes for a few seconds and smile.  Sometimes the smile is all you have, and it’s worth learning to do well.

What is the Duchenne smile?

In the early 1800s, there was a neurologist named Duchenne de Boulougne who specialzied in studying the human face.  But what he noticed in his work, is that there are two different kinds of smiles.  The first smile moves the muscles around the mouth up, and the second smile uses the muscles around the mouth but also the muscles around the eyes. We perceive the duchenne smile, as much more genuine-possibly because most people don’t know how to control the muscles around their eyes.

Celebrities are great examples, because they’re photographed a lot and it’s hard to always have a genuine smile.  Here are two images of Julia Roberts, the normal smile on the left, and the Duchenne smile on the right:

The reason that Michael C. Hall from the show Dexer, is so creepy is that he’s amazingly good at smiling without using the muscles in his eyes at all.  This is the anti-Duchenne smile:

How do you practice the Duchenne smile?

One of the best ways to get a better smile is to look goofy in front of a mirror.  Try thinking of something that makes you happy, some people have a phrase like “smile from your heart.”  Or maybe just thinking of grown men dressed in giant hello kitty suits always gives you that smile jolt, whatever it is, try to be comfortable calling that feeling out of you on command, and then test yourself in the mirror and ask friends (you trust) to tell you if it looks genuine.  After a while, you can tell, because most people find that really smiling feels good.

The next step is to go out and try to smile at people and get them to smile back at you.  It’s good to do this when people are walking in opposite directions on a busy street.

When you can do it on the street, it is much easier to do in a bar, where people go to feel good.  When you can be part of that, the tips take care of themselves.