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5 Different Responses To Give When Someone Asks, "Why Aren't You Smiling?"



I remember this job I had for awhile at A.T.&T. One of my duties (which I didn't particularly like) was to wheel things to the mail room in this big heavy cart. Every day, in the hallway, I would run into this very tall, very annoying woman who always demanded to know why I wasn't smiling.

Honestly, I think the answer was obvious: I am wheeling things down the hallway in a big heavy cart! However, the fact I wasn't performing my duty with this great big smile plastered onto my face really annoyed this woman, for some reason.

Who was this woman, anyway? I had no clue. To this day, I have no clue.

So.... how did I respond to her question?

I just sort of shrugged, or offered a weak smile.The tall woman never seemed satisfied, though.

What should I have said?

"I'm sorry my expression isn't pleasing you right now?"

"What law says I have to smile every second?

"I'll tell you why I'm not smiling if you tell me why you're so annoying?"

You know that none of these responses would have gone over well! Besides, when you're new on a job and don't have any authority, you just don't say things like this. So I never did.

(But I thought them)!

Now if my job involved dealing with the public - say as a waitress or hostess, then yes. A happy smiling face is part of the job and I can understand why a smile would be important in these situations.

But in the mostly empty hallway of A.T.&T. on my way to the mailroom, a constant smile didn't really seem necessary for getting the job done.


There is another "command to smile" incident that comes to mind. I was taking an elevator in the city which was being operated by one of those "elevator operators" - an older man, in his sixties or so.

As soon as I got on the elevator, I offered the man a polite "hi" and told him what floor I was going to. After that, he boomed, "WHY DO YOU LOOK SO SERIOUS, YOUNG LADY? WHERE'S THAT SMILE?'"

Well, maybe some people automatically offer up great big smiles for all strangers. I just don't happen to be one of them. I'm friendly. I'm polite. I'm just not a great big smiler all the time. But why did I have to explain all this to some strange man on an elevator?


I'm sure a lot of people asking the question don't really mean any harm, though. It may just be their way of offering some "friendly teasing."

So immediately lashing out with "What the hell business is it of yours if I'm smiling or not?" is probably not called for.

(The gentler, "I don't smile on comand," delivered with a great big smile, though, is an interesting response to consider).

If a close friend, relative, or signifigant other is asking the question, they may truly be concerned as to what's bothering you. That's a different story from the complete stranger asking, of course.

If someone is taking your picture, they will probably tell you to smile, or say cheese - which is supposed to produce a smile, although you can say cheese easily enough WITHOUT smiling, and if you REALLY don't feel like smiling for a picture, just say cheese with a straight face. (Although that might crack you up and make you start smiling)!

If you don't think you look good smiling in pictures - and really, this is a topic for a whole other hub - oh,now you've made me do it....you've made me write the dreaded HUB WITHIN A HUB....

Okay, here goes:


1). Just explain to the picture taker. "I look better when I don't smile in pictures."

2). Lie and say you're self conscious about your teeth. Or maybe you really ARE self conscious about your teeth.

3). Think of something funny. That will make you smile naturally. It doesn't matter what you think of....no one will know but you!

4). You could always just force yourself to smile for the camera. (Hint: Smiling usually does produce a better picture. Practice in front of your bathroom mirror. Tell yourself you have a winning smile).

5). Be the one taking the pictures.

There you go. Now let's go back to our original hub-at hand.

There are those people who are simply into "power plays" and will query as to why you're not smiling - or simply demand that you smile (which is even more annoying), as in: "SMILE!" These people want to show that they have some sort of authority over you, and think you should look pleasing at all times. It could be the stranger behind the counter at the magazine stand, an obnoxious co-worker, or even your boss..

If it is a man asking this question of a women (and in truth, women are asked much more often than men - society subtly demands that women look "happy and pleasing" all the time) it could be that he expects women to just naturally be smiley.


1). If you feel the asker is simply teasing you but truly has no bad intentions, then why not tease back? When they ask, "Why aren't you smiling?" Say: "Make me!" Or..."Say something funny!" Or how about: "Why don't you stand on your head and I'll think about it?" Or even: "I will, if you pay me ten bucks!" Hey, you might even make ten bucks!

2). If you feel like getting a bit intellectual after being asked this question, why not respond with: "I am smiling. On the inside." That will keep em' guessing! They'll probably respond with: "Oh. Okay," and then back off, wondering, "What does she mean by that? Is she smiling at ME on the inside?"

3). If the person asking is your BOSS, and a wise-cracking answer could cost you your job, you can always respond with: "I'm sorry. I just have a lot on my mind." Then you can even offer an apologetic smile, if you want. (Hopefully, he'll think the "a lot on your mind" has to do with work, instead of "I hate my boss, he's a jerk, and I wish he'd stop bugging me with dumb questions!").

4). If a stranger asks this question, and you feel up to being an actress and pulling out a little white lie, say: "I wish I could, but I just had dental work!" Be sure to mumble this response in a barely understandable way, as you grab the side of your jaw and wince in pain.

5). WARNING: This is a really nasty response. Use at your own risk, and only for someone you truly can't stand and have no desire to ever see again. Ready? Here goes. Let's start with the question: "Why aren't you smiling? You respond with: "WHY? SO I CAN GET AS MANY SMILE WRINKLES AS YOU?" I warned you it was bad.

Of course, if you find that you are asked this question A LOT, well...maybe you do want to question why this is so.


Do you walk around with a scowl on your face constantly?

Are you convinced the end of the world is always just around the corner?

Maybe you really are too busy worrying or thinking negative thoughts. Perhaps you have self esteem issues. Maybe you want to work on that - for your own sake.

If you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, that's different. You have a legitimate problem, and hopfully, you are getting help.( Atually, the honest response of, "I have been diagnosed with clinical depression," probably would stop that annoying question right in it's tracks).


Of course,you could always fall back on the old stand-by of: "Sorry, I have a really bad headache...cold...just getting over the flu....etc...." or, to "steal" from another one of my hubs: "I'm not a morning person."

However, if you feel you can design some simple changes in your life that would make you a happier person over all, go for it!


If you hate your job, instead of thinking, "I'm so miserable! I hate this job! This job is worse than death!" Why not change that to: "This job is only temporary. I can handle it until I find something else." Then secretly start looking for another job.

If you hate your hair, don't tell yourself, "My hair stinks! It looks like wet spaghetti! I look awful! Everyone has better hair than me!" Why not change that to: "I don't like my hair, but I'm going to do something about it!" Then check out some different hair syles in magazines, or maybe try some extensions or new hair accessories. Sometimes, even just parting your hair on a different side can make a big difference - or wearing a brightly colored headband (unless you're a man, of course)!

If you feel bored and work-weary, instead of moaning in your head, "I'm so bored I can't stand it! I hate my life!" Why not say, 'I'm going to plan a vacation!" Just the act of planning alone will make you feel hopeful and excited - even if you can't go right away.

You get the idea!

Just thinking about making positive changes in your life will improve your mood, and hopefully, will wipe that scowl right off your face.

Truthfully, I probably did have a frown at A.T.&T. as I wheeled that heavy cart down the hallway. After all, this was not a job I wanted to be doing! When I look back on it all, I could have changed my "self talk" - which probably would have made my face look less menacing - and thus would have saved me from the mysterious tall women's annoying observation that I was not smiling.

As for the man in the elevator - I think he was just teasing. Althought, I'm not exactly sure.

However, it's true that the happier you are with yourself and your life, the more that will just automatically show on your face - and maybe then, those annoying smile badgers will leave you alone!


Dominique on June 25, 2014:

I hate the fact that random people used to tell me to smile it just made me more mad but now that I have read this I think that I will take a different approach with things. I think it is worth a try.

Dr.Freud on November 28, 2012:

Or you could simply ask back "Are you concerned about my mood?"

PSSST! from Conneticut on September 12, 2012:

I used to have a boss who told me that all the time. It drove me crazy!

MAGICFIVE (author) from New York on September 10, 2012:

Me, too (as you can tell)!

PURPLECANDY from ANYWHERE on September 10, 2012:

There are a lot of good ideas here! I hate that question, too!

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