Where’s the Joy?

A friend recently posted on Facebook a number of photos from our high school days. While most of the comments made by our mutual friends referred to how young we all looked or how thin we used to be, I noticed something in the photos that I rarely see in photos of my adult peers.  Joy.

Where did it go?  Now I see people smile for their pictures all the time.  However, a smile is not necessarily the face of joy or happiness.  It can be but often is not.  I admit that makes me a little sad.

In my reading and writing, I often consider how body language and facial expressions play into effective communication.  Maybe that is why I noticed.

I think the common absence of playful and joyous expressions is a sign of several things.  Maybe as adults people become worn down by their adult responsibilities.  Maybe they are conforming to expectations of others, that all we do now is smile for the camera and not let it catch us having fun.  Maybe fun has to be hidden now because we think it makes us look irresponsible.  Maybe fun has changed.  Maybe fun is gone.  Maybe everyone is just tired.  I’m sure the answer is as different as each of us is different from each other.

I say all this to simply say that while perhaps all the reasons above are true, it may also be a matter of focus.  Two of the classic cognitive distortions are mental filters and magnification.  These can lead us to forget or ignore the ability to be joyful, to appreciate what is good in our lives and to maintain perspective between our troubles and our blessings.

Is this a communication topic?  I think so.  I think this has much to do with both how we communicate with ourselves and how we communicate with others.  And to prove it, here is my challenge:

Take a week and focus on all that is wonderful in your life and let it show. Don’t brag, just let your joy show.  Smile and make a point to be happy around others. Watch how people respond to you. I bet you’ll find it changes the dynamics of your communications and that change is positive.

Now, I think it is important to state that sometimes we don’t feel joy. Something sad has happened and it is healthy to mourn a loss. My ideas here are for the other days, when even our losses may help us appreciate our blessings.

When I see friends that ask how I’m doing, I often consider that questions and give a sincere answer that is often along the lines of “Fantastic!” or “It is a beautiful day!” or however it is I feel that day. I do it with genuine consideration and my answer is always honest.  No hokey, cheesy canned answer.  Just a chance, when asked, to reflect for a second and appreciate life.

In almost every case, my response seems to be appreciated by the person who asked.  They usually smile and have a more honest answer when I ask about how they are doing.  Of course, that is not really a surprise. Positive candor is usually very nice to be around, isn’t it?



About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.