Why All Smiles Are Not The Same: 12 Different Smiles And What They Mean

Written by , BE, PGDBM, Certified Professional Life Coach Harini Natarajan BE, PGDBM, Certified Professional Life Coach Experience: 17 years
Last Updated on

Smile, an everlasting smile, a smile could bring you near to me.” This song reminds us of the power of a smile. We can figure a lot about a person from their way of smiling. But smiles can prove to be tricky to decipher.

Even though most of the times, smiles are said to be an indication of happiness, there are certain types of smiles that represent a plethora of other emotions like nervousness, shame, or flirtatiousness. You can be smiling when you find an old greeting from your best friend, when you are getting an earful from your professor for being mischievous, or when you spot a handsome gentleman looking at you from across the bar at the club. How are they different, and what do they actually indicate? In this article, we will look at the different types of smiles and their possible meanings.

12 Different Types Of Smiles And What They Mean

1. The Lopsided Smile

This is also known as the asymmetrical smile, which is when the left and right sides of the mouth do not match. One side of the lips is upward, and the other is invariably downturned or frowning, which causes the mouth to move in opposite directions, making it look twisted.

This uneven smile is an indication of mixed emotions of uncertainty, sarcasm, and tongue-in-cheek humor. Many-a-times, though, a lopsided smile can be genetic.

2. The Open-Mouthed Smile

The Open-Mouthed Smile
Image: Shutterstock

You would have often seen people pose with their mouths wide open with excitement for selfies and photographs. Yes, those are what we call open-mouthed smiles. While this smile might not look as appealing in everyday life, it radiates extreme excitement and a carefree attitude, especially in photographs.

We are not talking about your run-of-the-mill regular wide smile, showing the teeth, but rather the extremely open one that almost seems like a frozen laugh. However, an open-mouthed smile can also be a fake smile because frozen laughter is uncommon.

3. The Flirtatious Smile

The Flirtatious Smile
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It is a universal fact that a smile is one of the most attractive attributes. Every time you look at someone you like and can’t help but blush incessantly while giving off a cheeky smile, you definitely have your flirting game going on strong.

Keep your lips together combined with an eyebrow lift or be a little coy, keeping your head down slightly down, or add a comical touch with a mustache of whipped cream or coffee froth on your upper lips, making it appear sexy and playful all at once.

4. The Pursed Lips Smile

The Pursed Lips Smile
Image: Shutterstock

While most smiles convey a positive attitude and emotion, not all smiles mean good things. In fact, they can be used for expressing unsettling emotions and great displeasure. This is exactly why you use a pursed-lip smile.

This is one of those types of smiles that’s a classic sign of suppressed anger. It involves holding your mouth shut to prevent any of that anger from unleashing. Here, the lower ends of the lips are curved up, and the upper ends are straight.

5. The Sarcastic Smile

The Sarcastic Smile
Image: Shutterstock

It is usually a small smile that almost barely changes the natural position of the lips. It usually also involves narrowed eyes, head tilts, and alternately shifting the weight from one side of the face to the other.

This combination of gestures is used when someone finds wants to demonstrate contradictory emotions of dislike and amusement together. This clenched smile is an effort to avoid giving any further comment on the incident.

6. The Genuine Smile

The Genuine Smile
Image: Shutterstock

This is one of the easiest and also one of the most difficult smiles to decode. A wide grin and crinkles around the corner of your eyes are the main characteristics of this smile. Also called the Duchenne smile, this is an authentic expression of pure happiness, pleasure, elation, and enjoyment.

Where a fake smile is merely a voluntary contraction of one’s muscles around the mouth, a genuine smile, on the contrary, is known to be good for health and releases endorphins in the brain, which are hormones linked to boosting happiness.

7. The Forced Smile

The Forced Smile
Image: Shutterstock

You all might be familiar with this one. It is the smile that you have to exhibit when you have relatives over at your house who you actually find annoying or that smile you have to sport when your boss cracks a not-so-funny joke, expecting you to laugh out loud. This soulless smile is a forced smile.

When you are in no mood to smile, but the situation demands you to have a smiling face, you have to put on a show with a happy smiley face, but your eyes give you away. This is one of those smiles that are used to hide the real misery you might be feeling inside and give the illusion of being happy.

8. The Closed Lip Smile

The Closed Lip Smile
Image: Shutterstock

This smile is secretive and phony. It indicates that someone is coy and knows something of utmost importance but has no intention of sharing his/her secret with you. It is a fairly easy smile to spot. You can clearly see someone hiding something from you, but their closed lips would not reveal the truth.

9. The Smug Smile

The Smug Smile
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A smug person is someone who is self-satisfied. It is a complex expression to decipher, with the lips being tightly pressed together, with one side a bit more raised than the other. However, you can recognize someone who is pleased with themselves or something that they did with the way they make self-righteousness remarks along with their smug little smile.

Depending on the situation and personality of the said person, it can be a sign of either arrogance or satisfaction or both. Many people use a smug smile flirtatiously as well.

10. The Twisted Smile

The Twisted Smile
Image: Shutterstock

The twisted smile is more like a grin than anything else. This smile leads to two different emotions showing on either side of the face. It is usually used to convey sarcasm in the sense that the person has said something that is nonsensical, foolish, or downright childish. However, many can use a twisted smile to depict that they are thinking of something evil.

11. The Embarrassed Smile

The Embarrassed Smile
Image: Shutterstock

An embarrassed smile is one where both you and the observer have to look away for a few seconds to control the slight blush that occurs because of the sheer stupidity of something you might have done. It can be doing something stupid in front of your crush or making a complete fool of yourself in front of a stranger.

12. The Pan Am Smile

The Pan Am Smile
Image: Shutterstock

Probably the fakest of smiles, this smile is named after the Pan Am flight attendants who were trained to flash it at every traveler that came aboard. Regardless of the situation, whether they were happy or not, or even if a certain incident made them want to puke, they were required to keep smiling. Here, the lips open up to try and show a little of the teeth, while the eyes are expressionless.

This is one of those types of smiles that are nothing more than a mere obligation. If you are someone who works in customer service, you might be aware that there are certain times you have to sport a fake or forced smile while dealing with your customer, even if the conditions aren’t to your liking.

Smiles are interesting and tricky to decipher. Hope this list helps you recognize them all and decide which one suits you best. Which smile do you identify with? Share your views with us in the comments section below.

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Harini Natarajan
Harini NatarajanHead Of Content Operations
As Head Of Content Operations, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She is a Certified Professional Life Coach from Transformation Academy, a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner from The Priority Academy, and has over 17 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media.

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