Celebrated humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi is no more. His story is an impressive case study in courage and determination to serve the needy. We should ponder on his parting message, “take care of the poor of my country”.

As Oscar Wilde put it, “Imagination is the best resource of those who know not how to dream, one thing I want to leave on this earth is ‘HOPE’. Lack of imagination leads to inaction. We all need to smile, laugh and put on a happy face. If we feel good, we make others feel good and that is the crux of the matter, the focus of our communication.

Many experts believe that laughing and smiling are powerful adjuncts to conventional medicine. The message is: happiness heals. Researchers believe that one of the reasons why we are attracted to smiling faces is because they can affect our autonomic nervous system. Facial expressions and moods are catching because in addition to registering what others are experiencing, we ourselves are experiencing the same emotions – cheerful or cross. Smiling at someone else can help both of you feel better, for a smile tends to call forth an answering smile. Smiling at yourself makes you self-conscious but it works. You keep on trying and feel improvement and test the therapeutic powers of smiling for yourself. If you are always surrounded by miserable people with long faces, you are likely to suffer depressive feelings yourself – eventually. Research findings indicate that it is in our power to influence our moods beneficially. Neither negative nor positive effects are permanent – but it does look as though people whose expressions are habitually miserable may be needlessly damaging their health.

Paul Ekman’s study identifies three categories of smile, each denoting a different type of emotion. ‘The Felt Smile’, ‘the Miserable Smile’ and ‘the False smile’ all make different use of the facial muscles and when it comes to delivering bad news, psychologists have found that in such instances people ignore body language and concentrate on what is being said.

A false smile rarely deceives anyone for it produces an uncomfortable sensation in the onlooker – who may not be able to analyze his or her reaction to it, but instinctively knows something is not quite right. The muscles around our eyes which we use when really smiling cannot be brought under conscious control by the brain – so in this case it is only the lips which can lie.

A happy smile or irrepressible laughter increases the blood flow and contributes to joyful feelings, so put on a happy face. Don’t starve the brain of essential fuel, the expression on your face can dramatically alter your feelings and perceptions. So why not then put on a happy face and learn the language of smiles. It helps to understand people and social perception. It inspires imagination that is required for action. It gives us hope, so brilliant, to be passed on to the next generations through positive communications and a culture of great manners and tasteful pleasant behaviors.

Effective organisation and management and effective communication go together. Understanding people in complex organisations is understanding social perception. Basically we need to learn about the three stages of perception process. In the attention stage, we select signals, cries and stimuli that are salient and ignore the rest through the use of perceptual filter. In the second stage, we organise the information that has focused our attention. We often rely on schemes to organise incomplete information. The third stage is interpretation and judgment. In that stage, we clarify and translate the information we have organised and decide on its meaning. The process of assigning a cause to a behaviour is the attribution process. In this stage, we judge whether a behaviour is caused by internal or external factors.

Our perceptual process is far from accurate. At every stage of the perception process, we selectively pay attention to some but not all information; judgments about the data that we make are subject to error. These errors are to a large extent a normal part of the physical and social perception processes. However, through identification and awareness, we can manage specific perception errors. Perceptual abilities allow us to process a vast amount of information quickly and efficiently. How, this efficiency often leads to ineffective decisions because we do not process the information thoroughly or correctly. Instead we often take cognitive shortcuts such as ignoring information that does not fit our expectations or making assumptions based on perceptions rather than objective facts. The shortcuts we use to be efficient and that cause perceptual distortions are known as perceptual biases. The biases in turn lead to mistakes in judgment. When these biases separate, we stop gathering information and instead rely on our assumptions to fill in the missing information, we need to explore five perceptual biases that affect organisational behaviour: the halo effect, stereotyping, primacy and recency effects, fundamental attribution error, and the self-serving bias.

The halo (horn) effect occurs when positive (negative) impression, colours all other perceptions. Stereotypes are broad generalisations about a person based on perceptions of the group in which the person is a member. Primacy occurs when we give early information too much weight; recency occurs when we over emphasise more recent information. Fundamental attribution error refers to the overuse of internal attributes. Actors tend to overuse external attributions about their behaviour; observers rely more on internal attributions about actors. Taking credit for personal successes and blaming failure on external causes is called the self-serving bias.

Although stereotypes help us process information quickly they compromise effectiveness and accuracy. Once formed, stereotypes are resistant to change. Diversity and training of personnel has made it possible to overcome biases at the end result of cultivating the importance of assimilation and accommodation finally making integration possible. People have a need for consistency that pushes them to look for information that supports their assumptions and beliefs. People believe that what they perceive is objective reality. Pressures for efficiency often contribute to this type of information search. In our communication we often limit peoples interaction with us so their behaviours support our expectations.

For improved decision-making and good governance and management we have to manage biases. Managing biases requires: recognising the biases; develop awareness of the areas and situations in which biases are most likely to operate; offer constant reminders and support; and provide opportunities for frequent contact. Keep in mind that perception is the way we gather information about the world around us to make decisions about a large range of issues and problems that our organisations and institutions face every day, managing the image we project and evaluating performance for a way forward. In the whole process the most important are the people. We need to understand people, we need to understand social and physical perception, we need to put up a happy face. We have to learn the language of smiles.

Abdul Sattar Edhi has been laid to rest with state honours. The key lesson for us from Edhi’s life is that he attained the status of our national hero because he understood the people, perception and the need for organising ability and delivery system that requires effective communication, public relations and the will to serve humanity. He knew how to bring smile to those who suffered the most. Our government, political organisations, youth, and all those engaged in socio-economic welfare of the people need to follow in the footsteps of Edhi.