How Many Types of Smiles Do You Know?

Have you met any of these smiles today?

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

A genuine smile that reaches the eye is a thing of beauty. A genuine smile makes the onlooker feel happy and spreads warmth and sunshine.

However, a genuine smile from the heart is rare. But we all see several other types of smiles on a daily basis. Here’s a compilation of some of my favorites.

The Perfunctory Smile

This is a “let’s get done with this” type of smile. You see this in elevators and other such places where eye contact happens inadvertently, and a smile is unavoidable.

It is just a tiny stretching of the lips. It is bereft of real feelings. The person bestowing the smile on you is doing it because it needs to be done.

Result? You return the favor to the person in the same way. A perfunctory smile that does nothing more than exercise a few facial muscles.

The Workplace Smile

This one is similar to the Perfunctory Smile. But it may have some emotion thrown in. Mostly disgust.

You enter the office in the morning and run into the one person you abhor at work. And yet, you must be polite and smile.

You work hard to stretch your lips that are refusing to part for the smile. The result is a tight smile that looks as if you have developed some sort of facial spasm.

Your peripheral vision catches the colleague doubling up with laughter after they are out of range. Your painfully constructed smile provided a dose of healthy laughter for your co-worker.

The Automated Smile

This is one of my top favorites. You will see this at checkout counters at malls, local grocery stores etc. The first time I met this smile, I was blown away. I thought that people are so kind and caring.

Over time, I have understood that this is an unemotional automated response.

The salesperson at the counter has been conditioned. Every time a customer reaches the billing counter, the salesperson chants “Hi, howz it goin’?” and there is a smile that accompanies this.

Don’t bother replying. Or bother replying. It doesn’t matter. They are programmed to not pay heed to the response. The smile and question are just part of their process. Step 1 in the checkout counter checklist.

When the billing is done, you will see another smile and hear a “Have a nice day”. Again, automated. You are not automated. So you could actually say, “You too”, and mean it!

The Wistful Smile

Sometimes you see a smile on some faces, but you know they are sad.

Everything else about them is screaming “sad”. They are probably reacting to the irony of a situation or rueing something that they cannot have.

For example, a friend announces that they bought a holiday home in the Bahamas. And the Wistful Smiler is thinking, “we both went to the same school, had the same education, grew up in the same neighborhood. How come he gets to buy a beach bungalow, and I am still making down payments on my 2-bedroom apartment?

It is as if they are trying to wear a mask. They don’t want to show the world that they are sad, but they are unable to force a real smile onto their face.

The Sheepish Smile

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

You see this when someone has done something they should not have. Or have been caught in a very awkward situation.

  • A little kid who stole a cookie, but got caught by his mom.
  • A bunch of cackling girls crossing the road at the wrong place, and being ticked off by a cop.
  • A man flirting with the neighbor and caught by his wife.
  • A boy who hasn’t turned in his homework, and being questioned by the teacher. Tries to work up an endearing smile while being sheepish.

These are all scenes where you can treat yourself to samples of the Sheepish Grin! Sheepish smiles are the cutest. Look out for them. You will be amused!

The “I’ve Got Great Teeth” Smile

Some people are naturally blessed with a great set of teeth. But for some, it may take several visits to the dentist to arrive at this state.

Having spent much money, time, and effort in constructing the perfect smile, it would be a waste if they did not flash a brilliant grin at every available opportunity.

You will recognize this type of smile immediately. You may need to whip out your sunglasses to avoid being completely bedazzled by the shiny whites.

The Childlike Smile

Children hardly ever fake a smile. When their face breaks out into a smile. it feels like a piece of the Sun has arrived in the room.

A Childlike Smile can appear for the simplest of reasons:

  • You spot a butterfly in your balcony
  • The clouds clear and you catch sight of the brilliant orb that is the moon
  • A gust of wind catches your hair and blows it on your face
  • When the first raindrops of the season land on your face

A multitude of things in life that can make someone break into a smile. When you see such a smile, you will instantly feel happy too, regardless of the reason. It is contagious. Good contagious. No need to wear a mask!

The Mona Lisa Smile

How could I not mention the most enigmatic smile. This smile is exactly that. An enigma. You are in conversation in a group, and you catch someone smiling. You are unable to read the reason for the smile, or the type of smile. Are they happy? Sad? Sheepish? Wistful?

The nature of the smile eludes you. The reason remains a mystery.

Maybe it is someone smiling mysteriously because they know something that you do not? Gah! The stress of not knowing why someone smiled!

The Conspiratorial Smile

This one is an irritant. When you catch someone giving you a conspiratorial smile, either you are in on the conspiracy, or you are not. And if you are not, well…you poor thing!

What do they know that I don’t? What are they plotting? Is it against me? Should I be on guard? Oh, the number of questions that race through your mind.

You might be better off doing a spot of meditation to calm your agitated mind when you are faced with a Conspiratorial Smile.

And The Heartfelt Smile…

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The one that reaches all the way up to the eyes, and brings a twinkle in the eye. This is the purest form of a smile. It appears out of a depth of emotion that translates into a visual display.

  • When you see a dear friend
  • When you meet your loved one after a long time
  • When you wave your child off to school and wish her a good day
  • When the dog comes bounding to you with his ears tucked back and oozing love
  • When your beau brings you a surprise gift
  • When someone gives you a compliment

There are tons of reasons for anyone to break into a truly heartfelt and genuine smile. This is the best type of smile because it is dipped in love. And, just like the Childlike Smile, it is very contagious. Whoever sees a heartfelt smile will immediately reciprocate with an equal smile.

A heartfelt smile invokes a variant of Newton’s Third Law. Every heartfelt smile has an equal and opposite heartfelt smile!


That’s the list so far. Can you think of any other types of smiles you have seen that I may have missed?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s