Pain Concern
22,899 members7,745 posts

Struggling with looking happy

I have had a degenerative bone condition since birth, had bad sciatica aged 5, swollen joints all my life, osteopath arthritis very prematurely. I muddled thro and got on with life. I had spinal surgery aged 23, recovered, got on with life. 6 years ago i had a terrible year and was getting chest pain, despite passing a stress test they decided to do an angiogram which was completely botched leaving me with a massive aneurysm. This was repaired but botched and needed another surgery and end result was that I was left with nerve damage and horrendous constant pain and needing a wheelchair to leave the house. It turned out the consultant had been struck off for doing the same to someone else but she died, only they let him continue operating while he a pealed. I developed post traumatic stress and it took me 5 years to start feeling even a tiny bit better. I'm now working again but get criticised that i dont sound happy enough or friendly enough when I answer the phone. I struggle with every aspect of life, I only have to answer the phone a few times a day, most of my work is face to face. I go to great lengths to help people and most customers seem happy with me but my manager expects me to grin like a moron all the time. I a serious person by nature anyway but with the pain it's hard to be so fake happy all day. I'm not grumpy rude or grouchy just not able to pretend I'm overflowing with happiness all day and my telephone voice isn't happy enough. Any advice?

21 Replies

How does one comment on this? I just don't know. All I know is that I have no right to complain about my ailments, pain, and sad stuff in my life after reading what you have had to put up with. My heart goes out to you. Try not to worry about what others think or say about you......what the heck do they know anyway?????? I sooooo hope things are at least reasonable for you at the moment. Sending lots of good wishes. :)

P.S. Actually my son constantly calls me grumpy and tells me I sound and look grumpy and that he thinks I am exaggerating my ailments .....I get upset as I honestly don't think I am being grumpy but I'm obviously wrong!! :x


Thanks for answering. What you said about you not thinking you were grumpy but your son saying you are made me think that it's more about what message we giving out rather than what we say. A case of not what you say but how you say it.

Today i tried literally painting a smile on. I got a new lipstick and made sure i had applied it very carefully and got a couple of compliments from members of the public! So I'm going to try that this week and just try to accept that some people have preconceptions and I can only undo them by being the best I can, and I'm going to try to accept that not everybody likes each other.

Some days are hard but they are made easier by knowing there are some kind people like you left. Thank you for your message


thanks for your message and I am going to TRY and do what you are doing.....I won't wear lipstick as it always gets smudged on my lips, but I will TRY to look and sound chirpy and smiley...:) :) :) :p :) It might actually be FUN :) Hope you have a healthy day tomorrow and a fun one :)


Hi Louisiana

I got through work yesterday and today I feel a little better in myself, just a little bit more fight in me today, I'll be grateful for that and happy that today is a better one. I do find that acting a bit chirpy when I have it in me makes other people respond with humour or a smile, it's just hard being told off when you thought you were being quite happy and chirpy and you get told that someone said you sounded miserable on the phone. I don't think these bloody scripts they expect us to recite when answering help, you know the sort of thing "Good Morning" "Name of Company" ".... speaking" "how can I help" maybe what I need to do is some breathing exercises so I have enough puff to be able to spit it all out!!!


Well done! I am off to my local shop in a few minutes, so I am going to go in all smiley....I haven't been there since the summer and the day I picked was very hot. their air conditioning wasn't working and I almost passed out. and I couldn't do any shopping..I obviously was not a happy bunny that day! :) So. today, watch out....they won't recognise me. :p


Well Done you Louisiana it's always hard to go back to somewhere where you have had an unpleasant experience. Hope it goes well


It all worked out well...they actually seemed pleased to see me, and I joked about the last time I was in. So, I might actually wear lipstick next time :) :) :) Night night....stay well.

1 like

Hi, sorry to hear all you have gone through but how amazing are you getting yourself back to work against all the odds! Goodness me you could teach a few people a thing or two on how to overcome adversity so well done.

Its hard to always put on a brave face especially if you are in pain or feeling low but it sounds like you are doing very well at it and customers seem to like you.Just seems to be your so called not happy enough when you answer the phone which seems a bit petty.Tell you what everytime you answer the blooming phone pretend to yourself the caller is ringing to tell you that youve won the lottery ! That should put a smile in your voice ha ha.As far as i am concerned the firm is lucky to have someone with as much life experience as you so put on your new lipstick and remember that.Good luck x


Hi Kim

I'm going to try that! It's not the thought of the money that would make me smile, it's how silly the whole thing is really that should make me smile really! Thankyou so much for your support, I am wearing the new lippy as I type too! Thanks for your support


Hi ( not so !) Grumpya, I think you are totally amazing to have overcome all you have and STILL manage to work and be smiley at least some of the time


Thankyou Curlygirl54. I decided last year that if I took a little bit of control back then I might not lay awake worrying all night, which was the worst part of the PTSD and that I had to accept that pain was my normal now, so anything I wanted to do had to be done through the pain, or I had to accept that the rest of my life would be spent how I was & I didn't like it how it was.

I'm not strong, but I am very scared of feeling as vulnerable as I did when I wasn't working so that keeps me going. Its also easier being in the wheelchair because all I have to do is tip myself into it and then I can get into work, much easier than having to fight through some other conditions where you have to walk, get the bus etc.


Not one person on this earth is super happy every minute of the day, I have to look relaxed open and calm when in work. If I feel like crud then that is super difficult and the children pick up on it anyway and ask if you are ok. They are learning to react to other people in a positive way. We need to teach them to be kind thoughtful caring, to help cheer others up if they are down, spread a smile.

That is why I love my job. Small children with support needs have the biggest hearts.

1 like

I so admire your courage!!! With all you have to deal with you still hold down a job---I am jealous!!!! LOL I understand about the "phone" voice, but try to go with the flow! I have the tendency to do the same thing with the phone---but there are bigger things to deal with then the "smallness" of those who criticize! Sending hugs!!!!



Thankyou Trishj46, after reading your reply and some others I am going to concentrate on doing what is asked but thinking what a shallow and sad person she must be that she is only comfortable with idiots who are fake happy all the time. She must be very uncomfortable with any real emotions to have to be surrounded by smiles and happy voices all day. If I let her need for fake happiness makes me miserable then she has won and I have lost a job I like doing that pays well and is very convenient, so I'm going to try really hard not to let her!

Thankyou for your hugs and support


Hi Danslatete

Thank you for answering, I think kids with special needs are great because they don't judge they just know that you are kind or not! Wouldn't it be great if adults were that clever!

I really don't think its possible to hide your emotions we are all able to varying degrees to read the hidden signals , so really my manager is asking the impossible, and I think there is more to it than meets the eye. She is quite a troubled soul herself and although she puts a good act on for the public she is one moody cow towards the staff, I'm going to work on pretending I am trying harder while trying to feel a bit of sympathy for her, in that she cannot be in a good place herself if she thinks the only acceptable way in life is to present oneself as being extatically happy all the time. If I am doing what is asked of me and beyond surely she cannot sack me when my probation period is up.

Thanks for answering your support is appreciated


I just find if condescending and an impossible target to reach. Humans are meant to experience lots of emotions so never be sorry for that. I hate it when you get told to leave home life at the door and do the same when going home. How do we expect tomorrow's teens to cope if they never see anyone coping?

Any way I find sickly sweet pretend smiles puke inducing.

Be yourself and be proud of your achievements, it takes a lot to be a survivor :)


I just hope you sued the Hospital because that might help you smile in the end ! You deserve something for such a bad time .


Start by thanking your manager for telling you not to mope and look miserable. Then tell your manager this is hard work and you do occasionally need to let rip with the four letter words which best describe your condition where no one can here you. Hopefully that may take some of the pressure off.

When answering the phone do not answer on the first or second ring. This will give you time to compose yourself. Think of smiling with your eyes. A grin fixes muscles which is why it looks so false. Having a grin modifies the voice very subtly and the listener will pick it up even if they do not know what they are picking up.

I don't know if this will work for you but a modification that fits your situation is an experiment to try and see what happens. From this you can tweak what you do to see if that improves the situation or makes it more difficult.

Hope this helps


They say (whoever they are!) that if you smile while talking on the phone, it makes you sound happy. Maybe if you want to try it, tape yourself talking as you normally speak, then try it smiling. Just to see the difference. Practice in front of a mirror, so it looks genuine too, nothing worse than an obviously false smile.

There are meditations on you tube that help with all sorts of problems. Try a guided one for mood (voice talking to you). It will reach your subconscious and help you feel happy from within. You could use a few of the phrases to prepare yourself before a meeting. Just focus on breathing for a few breaths then say the phrases a couple of times each. Your brain will recognise it's part of the meditation and will access the "happy thoughts" for you, making it easier for you to be happy.

You could also make a joke of your situation, bad day, if you are allowed off script, sometimes people are less judgemental if they understand.

Maybe ask your manager for training, or for a voice coach for everyone. Sometimes these workshops help to gel the team together.


All you can do is be yourself !

It's very tiering trying to keep a happy front on to everyone. I do that to and then when I'm alone after a busy time with kids etc. I cry and it's a release from trying so hard when people are around.

Take care if yourself


My only suggestion from a personnel management perspective is to take the following steps:

1) Ask her to make time to meet with you & the personnel director.

2) In the meeting discuss with them:

a) you have been considering supervisor's input about smiling.

b) you want to assure them you will make an honest effort in this area

c) inform them of the difficulties you have in this area, unlike other employees, because of long term painful health issues. [ If you were hired at company already having the issues be certain to point this out!]

d) ask if they have received any formal or written complaints about you on this topic of not smiling or tone of voice.

IF YES....ask why you had not been informed, what action was taken, & for a copy of the records on the matter. After that, ask if this will be reflected on your evaluation & if so, how?

IF NO...state: Good, I didn't think so.

e) Ask the personnel director what information she has on how the employees with disabilities laws effect your supervisor's concerns about your not smiling enough.

The entire point of this meeting is to make your supervisor & the personnel director aware that your smiling, or not, isn't having a negative impact on your work, isn't causing formal complaints, shouldn't effect your evaluation & that you won't accept being messed with because you have employees with disabilities laws to protect your rights. You just have to do so through questioning & not threatening them


You may also like...