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One Time to Smile Even with RBF

I read the article in The New York Times on August 3 about readers who commented on an article about RBF that appeared on August 1. What, I thought to myself, is RBF? Following the link to the original article, I’m not mad, that’s just my RBF, by Jessica Bennett, I quickly learned RBF refers to Resting Bitch Face.

If you follow the Twitter hashtag #rbf, you’ll see numerous examples of people talking about RBF and offering up images of themselves as examples of having RBF. The article, the follow-up article with readers comments, and the tweets all make a strong case that RBF is something women are held accountable for more than are men. In her article Bennett points out, “But it is also a problem (and, like the word “bitch” itself, one that seems to predominantly affect one-half of the gender equation).” The frustration is evident because for women RBF is considered a negative that should be addressed by smiling more whereas men with RBF tend not to be chastised for it.

While I understand the frustration expressed in the readers’ comments article, my thoughts turned to the advice we give at Emily Post for people engaged in an introduction. We have four key behaviors we recommend: stand up, use a firm handshake, look the person in the eye, and smile as you say your name and repeat the other person’s name. Stand up in order to be at eye level with the person you are meeting. A firm handshake, not a limp dead fish one or a bone crusher, as firm conveys strength without domination—about the pressure you would use when grasping a door handle. Look the person in the eye because we connect with people through our eyes. And smile, even if you have to work at it to do it.

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Yes, even if you have RBF, woman or man, smile during an introduction. Why? Because a smile is welcoming, and the introduction is the first moment to building a relationship. Bennett explained the benefits of a smile this way, “Humans make judgments based on facial cues…people who look “happy” are generally deemed more trustworthy, too.” Business is built on trust. An easy way to begin building that trust, even for a person with RBF, is, by smiling while greeting someone. If it can help start a relationship on a positive note and begin building trust, there’s no good reason not to smile during an introduction.

Similarly, when you start out an interaction with someone by answering the phone, try smiling as you answer it. That smile will welcome the caller, and at least you will begin the conversation on a positive footing.

If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org.

Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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