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How a Simple Grin Can Be the Ultimate Disguise

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You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.

A grin is a funny thing; it can kill your career if you are unaware.

I hate grins because I saw the effect they could have on people; in some cases a grin was the cause of a career that never had the opportunity to develop and flourish.

A grin is not a smile; it’s not a grimace. A grin lingers somewhere in between these extremes demonstrating neither joy nor annoyance.

This is the real danger lurking beneath the grin. You never know the real intention behind the grin; is the grinner genuinely happy or displeased in some way.

The grin is a very difficult read.

But it’s consequences can be swift and destructive to the innocent person who incorrectly interprets it.

The grinner has a number of intentions behind their art.

Each action they take is a precursor to a clandestine act they intend to play out in the future with their victim.

They use a grin to hide their envy

A colleague looks like they are progressing faster and further. The grin is really a faked expression of good will and well wishes that really means “OMG! that person is on the move and I could be behind.” The “envy grin” is most commonly spotted when the grinner congratulates the person who is promoted or is publicly recognized for some achievement.

They use a grin as a mask

The mask is used to hide their true feelings. It’s a baked on look because they are afraid that their real feelings will show through if they respond honestly. And they don’t want that to happen. The grinner doesn’t want to overtly display negative emotions like disgust, anger and jealousy because others will see them for who they really are; their real agenda will be exposed and their strategy to undermine others will be at risk.

They use a grin to deceive

The grinner uses the weapon to falsify their intentions and lull another person into believing they have the grinner’s full support. That way the grinner is perceived to be a member of the crowd that will stand behind and do to the wall to defend another’s plan or proposal. When a colleague falls victim to the “deception grin”, they focus on gathering support from others and assume the grinner’s loyalty; they let their guard down and provide a sliver of entry for the grinner’s eventual surprise attack.

The favourite ploy of the grinner who has deceived you is to wait for the perfect moment to shoot you down. To put their hand up when you are presenting your proposal to the decision making group and raise a “minor concern” or picky point that just might cause risk for the organization. They put it forward as well intentioned, in the spirit of achieving the best solution possible, but it is nothing more than an attack meant to discredit.They want to be seen as the “white knight”; you the pawn.

They use a grin to fake

It’s a classic basketball move. Lean to the left and move to the right. The grinner loves the ploy to lull everyone into thinking they know what they’re all about. What they think and how they will likely act. Fake grinners never want to be predictable; they see it as a weakness and a window through which others will discover their true motives. A grinner colleague of mine was a master of this technique. He would declare to one and all that he intended to propose a major capital investment to support marketing — I was CMO at the time and he was VP Technology — and when the time came to play his cards and make the call, he always found some vague reason to not do it. The “fake grin” was his way of displaying support for marketing but doing exactly the opposite.

Related: The Secret to a Brilliant Customer Service Strategy

They use a grin to suck you in

The grinner wants others to believe they are sincere; that they are honest and above reproach. They use the “suck you in grin” to lull people into thinking they are that person. But they’re really driven by narcissism and insincerity. They only care about their own personal needs and wants. If you get hooked by this grin, you basically won’t believe anything negative that is said about the grinner. You believe their motives are sincere; there must be something else going on that would explain any negative behaviour you witness. In this state they can get away with almost anything and you are unlikely to tag them as harmful to those around them.

My story — “the snake”

“The snake” plagued me for many years of my executive life. He was a classic grinner who used his talent to effectively sideline many talented people only to suddenly appear in a higher more influential position in the organization.

He was a calculated grinner who I believe had a pathological streak. Many times he would shoot me down in an executive meeting and then would appear surprised when I called him on it. One of many examples: as president of our data and internet organization, I needed capital to expand internet service; he would argue against it saying we should place the priority on regulated services — even though outside the executive room he was gushing over developing new innovative internet based services. And when I called him out on his two faces, he would grin in amazement over my reaction. My story has a happy ending though. He was eventually discovered for what he was and was unceremoniously terminated — much to his surprise — but unfortunately leaving many casualties in his wake.

Don’t be paranoid when you see a grin, but be aware that it may NOT be an expression of honesty one way or another.

It may be a disguised act of war.

Look for people who wear their hearts on their sleeves; who laugh out loud or scream their displeasure.

At least you will know where these people are coming from.

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