Types of Smiling Faces
Body Language of Smiles - Part 3

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We arrived to our final destination in the series of smiling, and in this last part we're gonna focus on the different types of smiling faces we meet every day.

As I already mentioned there are many types of smiles - a lot more than just a "fake" or the genuine type (that we call  the Duchenne's smile). Some estimate that we have about 50 types of different smiles - all look pretty much the same, but the context, the personality, cultural norms and small changes in the physical appearance of the grin gives it a distinct meaning.

On this page we'll look exactly at that - some examples of smiling faces to give you an idea what to look for, and emphasize  their distinctive features so you'll understand what THAT smile meant.

Tight Lips Smile

Tight lips smile

The tight lips smile is perhaps the most common form of a smiling, mainly because it's easy to fake and this is what we have in mind when we need to smile politely.

So in most cases you can say it's fake - since when we are truly happy we don't afraid to show teeth.

 What can it mean? A lot of things - fear, shyness, politeness, reserved mindset or the masking of true emotions. Whatever the exact meaning is - it has a secretive attribute, in this cases hiding the teeth is equivalent to hiding thoughts.

Keep in mind that some people keep their lips tight to avoid showing bad teeth or because they believe they possess a non-photogenic look. If you do have doubts about your smile with visible teeth - just try it a mirror, it's worth it.

This smile works great in courtship because it adds some mysterious quality, Ill soon elaborate more.

The Smug Smile

You know that smile – the self satisfied, arrogant and kinda of evil smile.


Lips – Usually pressed together and only one side coming up. Can be done with a lips slightly separated. The upper lip may also rise a bit.

Eyes – Can narrow a little to create some kind of suspicious look.


Usually a sign of self satisfaction, arrogance and expression of superiority.
It can also be a sign of doubt and an attempt to dismiss someone's opinion.
If the upper lip rises – it's probably a sign of ridicule.

Interestingly, it can be used in flirting as a sign of humor and playfulness – to try and catch attention and interest from the other side.

Olivia Wide smug smile

How Smug

Image Source

Half Smile

This smile is quite similar to the smug, only with a slight adjustment and a different meaning.

Half smile is one of the more confusing expressions we have - simply because it's so ambiguous in its appearance - it's asymmetric.

Now, many smiles are asymmetric, (we mentioned that it's one of the hallmarks of a genuine smile) but when it's really contrasted, when you're unsure if that's a smile or a frown - then that's a problem.

So, what does it mean?!

1. It's one of the main features of sarcasm - "an evil" or "smug" smile. You can also say it's a sign of confidence, or feeling of superiority towards whoever the smile is intended for.

Something to think about: I told you that the smile evolved as an appeasement gesture, a sign of submission rather than threat, so how does this smug mug fits in? In my opinion it simply doesn't - we call that expression a smile, but beside their similar features they have little in common in the meaning or context. It's a conscious disconnect between what is show outside and felt inside.

2. Other meanings involve a mix of contrasting feelings, a shade between happy and shy, sad or a gesture of comfort. You can say it's an incomplete or tired smile, a response to uncomfortable event, this type has a lot in common with the "tight lip smile", both in meaning and expression.

Open Mouth Smile

Now that we talked about the tight lipped smiling face let's turn to the opposite - open mouth smile.

I don't talk here about the "regular" smile showing teeth, but rather on the really open smile that looks like a frozen laugh.

Surprisingly (or not?) the big open mouth smile is also a fake. It's really rare to see a person with a frozen laughter on his face - he's either laughing or not. But whether fake or not, this "upgraded" smile has a certain magic, especially in photographs - it instills the appearance of joy and carefree attitude.

So in general - it's a good smile to use, even if it's somewhat fake because it radiate "the feel good" energy to others.

marilyn monroe

Smile like a pro

If you want to look more photogenic and happy in your photos you can try practicing this one. Just think of something funny and smile.

Flirtatious Smile

It's a light smile, very similar to the "half smile" we mentioned earlier. It's attractive because it shows enigmatic features. It's especially attractive in females because it's as if saying "I like what I see, but you'll have to work harder". it's often a sort of invitation for more interaction.

Biting the lips or licking them while smiling enhances the size and fullness of the lips and makes the smile appear more sexy and playful.

An interesting side note - while we men tend to interpret a woman's smile as a sign of desire, a gesture of flattery that's really hard to resist (after all it's a big ego boost), women on the other hand tend to see smiles as support signals. This lack of cohesion in our understanding often leads to very different views on how we see each other.

Another note for the guys - while smiling has many benefits, including social ones - avoid using them too much, especially on women. The hard truth is that smiling somewhat diminishes your "macho qualities" because you appear as trying too hard to appease her.

Other signs

Lastly, I want to mention some key ideas when you differentiate smiling faces around you:

1. Watch as smiles occur to strong emotions - it's true that we smile when we feel strong feelings of happiness, but they also appear easily in response to fear, embarrassment and even anger.

2. While in general smiles make us appear more honest and "human" watch for them when suspecting a lie. There are two reasons for that: a. liars want you to believe their lie - they will try harder to appease you so you believe their story. b. some smiles are unintentional response to internal tension, just like I mentioned in the paragraph above.

3. On the contrary (and I'm hope I'm not confusing you here) smiling in stressful situation can actually help to alleviate moral. Just like using humor when caught in a bad spot, smiling can help you see the world through brighter lenses.

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