Dave: Smiling is one of those natural things that we do unconsciously. It is an expression denoting pleasure, sociability, happiness, joy or amusement. However, I have been told many times that I rarely smile – this isn’t because I don’t smile but more that my facial expression is often neutral, neither happy nor unhappy. Now, the big question is, do I not smile very much because it’s not in my genes to do so or is it because I can’t see and therefore don’t get the visual triggers from other people to respond with a smile? John Hull shares his thoughts about this on page 26 of his book ‘Touching the Rock’ – ‘Nearly every time I smile, I am conscious of it. I am aware of the muscular effort; not that my smiles have become forced…but it has become a more or less conscious effort. Why is this? It must be because there is no reinforcement. There is no returning smile. I am no longer dazzled by a brilliant smile. I no longer find that the face of a stranger breaks into sudden beauty and friendliness. I no longer seem to get anything for my efforts.’ There are many articles and theories online about smiling and whether you learn to smile or are born being able to smile, as far as I’m concerned, I think it is definitely situation related – I laugh and smile when I’m happy but my natural state is, well I guess, neutral.
Vicky: Okay, this is interesting. I've never thought of Dave as non-smiling and it's something I do notice about people. I've been told I'm always smiling (although I think my husband and children would have a different view on this 😊) but I am aware that it is generally my default when I meet people and as such I'm very aware that lots of sighted people don't join me in this and don't smile back readily. I used to struggle with this but have since realised that everyone is just different so I’m not sure it’s just a sighted/vision impaired difference. However, it certainly makes sense to me that as a vision impaired person you might not smile as much when you don't see the response from others or get the same reaction back from people. Maybe it’s also that you're not sure who’s looking at you to know when to smile? I think Dave uses humour a lot to relate to people, maybe so people join in with an audible reaction rather than just smiling? People definitely tend to find him welcoming and sociable so maybe he’s found an alternative to smiling that works for him?
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