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Avoid ‘social gaze’ and mean business

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in Workplace Communication

“They never take me seriously.” Sometimes, the relationships between men and women in the office become more flirtatious than they should be. When that happens, it can seriously degrade a woman’s ability to be taken seriously, particularly if she isn’t in a position of power.

According to career coach Carol Kinsey Goman in AMA’s e-letter Moving Ahead, the problem can stem from using a “social gaze” with colleagues when talking about work-related issues.

She describes it this way: If you imagine a triangle, with the eyes as the base and the midforehead as the apex, you’ve mapped out the “look of business.” Keep your eyes focused on that area and you signal a no-nonsense approach. But if you allow the triangle to shift down, so that the mouth becomes the bottom point, your gaze can be misinterpreted as flirtatious.

Goman acknowledges that it’s OK for your gaze to veer occasionally into social-gaze territory. But women need to be aware that a business gaze has the strongest impact.

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