Faking Friendliness Is Stressful
A new study addresses the potential impact of faking friendliness on our health. How harmful can it be?
"Have a nice day - and a short life" reads one headline. "People who smile a lot and say 'have a nice day' are headed to an early grave, while the grumpy stay fit." reads the sub-heading.
Sounds pretty conclusive. Time to stop smiling a lot and telling people to have a nice day, then? (If you already do. If you don't, time to make a mental reminder to not start doing either?) Maybe not. Alarmist headlines may be more fun to write than mild ones.
Truth is, no one apparently even died in the study, which is good. But perhaps less dramatic.
Psychologists at Frankfurt University put students to work in a simulated phone center where "clients" treated them in an abusive manner.
Students who were required to be "polite and friendly" at all times had a racing heartbeat long after the "abusive" calls ended. The heartbeats of students who were not required to be polite to rude callers was also elevated, but soon returned to normal.
The psychologists concluded that "being friendly against one's will causes nothing but stress".
Researchers also studied the emotional behavior of 4000 people who have to deal with the public for long periods of time, including flight attendants. The authors of the study believe the forced friendliness involved in such jobs can lead to depression, and hinder the immune system's ability to defend against a variety of illnesses.
Much of this seems logical, as long as it isn't taken to alarmist extremes. Perhaps the most shocking realization is that Mr. Rourke, Fantasy Island's very well-informed host, must have known full well that his rather insistent instructions to "Smile everyone, smile!" were not in the best interests of his underlings. Yet he nonetheless proceeded to issue them, week after week, year after year. The heartless bastard.
David Gilmour - Smile (from On An Island)
Boo Radleys - Smile Fades Fast (from Everything's Alright Forever)
Stereophonics - Have A Nice Day (from Just Enough Education To Perform)
The Killers - Smile Like You Mean It (from Hot Fuss)