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A smile can succeed where a scowl fails

(Shanghai Daily)

08:38, March 04, 2013

(File Photo)

ON my way home by subway last Thursday, a middle-aged man sitting opposite to me suddenly thrust out his leg and put his foot on the pole in front of me.

Very rude and base behavior in public.

My anger was smoldering but, like all the other passengers, I said nothing.

I took out my cell phone, took a picture of the man, and tweeted his twisted figure. A few seconds later, I deleted it.

For about five minutes, I was asking myself: Don't I have the courage to say "no" to this man's gross impropriety? What's the use of my microblog "broadcasting" the behavior, if it can't be stopped on the spot?

This is what I did after five minutes of consideration: I gave the man a polite smile - I said nothing - and guess what? He smiled back! Then I gestured him to put his leg back - I still said nothing but kept smiling. He removed his foot.

A smile works - sometimes better than an exchange of words, a fist fight or microblog broadcast.

It made news online recently when a person who had returned from Japan recalled how polite Japanese people were to each other, even strangers smiled to each other.

I have the same feeling, to be sure, but the problem is not lack of Chinese who can smile, but lack of courage on our part to smile first.

On that subway that evening, all the other passengers were silent. They didn't even think of smiling as a way to solve the problem.

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