You Can’t Teach a Smile


When my wife Doris and I eat out, it is not uncommon that we end up discussing the service. Was it good, bad, or indifferent?  Is it consistent?  Naturally, much of service in a restaurant is a result of training, but not all.

Even in restaurants with consistent, well-trained staff, attitude is clear. The experience is different when the staff is friendly instead of just polite. By friendly, I don’t mean they sit down and become our new best friend. No, I’m talking about their disposition.

Do they seem genuinely engaged?  Are they trying to be helpful or simply complete the order? Are they paying attention to the experience by the customer or simply following a check-list process taught by management?


In a recent trip, we stopped by a restaurant in Conyers, GA. We ended up, as happens from time-to-time, talking with Lisa Gillman, the service manager.  In the course of talking about the importance of service, she summed up my point in one sentence.

“You can’t teach a smile.”


Of course you can instruct people to smile, but that is not her point. She knows great customer service requires happy people. People can tell a difference in a happy person and a person who is miserable with one of those bad school picture “smiles.”

So what does this have to do with effective communication? Everything.

Attitude impacts everything you say and do. It influences how you speak AND how you listen. And no matter how well you can act happy, we are wired instinctively to pick up both attitude and false behavior from others.

Don’t just fake a smile. Find the blessings in your life, and appreciate them. You’ll enjoy your day better AND find others will be more inclined to help each day be more joyous and productive.



Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at

Glenn is also the founder, and Senior Consultant, of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2013. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


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.