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Facing It: Business Lessons from My Daughter with Down Syndrome.

Lesson #3: What is your face saying?




As I mentioned in previous blogs, my daughter does not speak and it’s hard to tell how much verbal communication she understands. I can give her simple commands such as “close the door,” or “turn off the light.” I’d guess she follows those commands about 60% of the time. When she does we celebrate this achievement with great enthusiasm.


While she can’t carry on a conversation, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t communicate. Her lack of verbal communication skills has made me aware that I often unknowingly communicate with her.


The dreaded RBF.


I’ve never been much for smiling. It’s not my natural expression. Most of the time I’m wearing the RBF. It is by no means a true indication of how I am feeling. More than likely, my scowling expression probably means I’m deep in thought, not angry.


However, I have to keep reminding myself that that is not what my daughter might think. I have noticed that she carefully reads facial expressions. When she sits with us, I often find her scanning the faces in the room, continually reading our expressions. When I catch her looking at me, I have to remind myself to smile because my expression affects hers.


The same rule applies to leadership in the office.


Employees are always reading the boss’s face, looking for clues, wondering how they’re doing. Are they happy? Sad? Worried? And if they look worried, does that mean we should be worried?


Do you see how your face sends a message? Can you be a better leader by smiling a little more? (I know I could.) Does something as trivial as a smile really matter? Just ask yourself, what kind of boss would you rather work for? A happy one or a mean-looking grouch?


Just take a look at these faces. Do they make you smile?




See how it works? But guess what. If you want to make someone else smile, you have to do it first.


Hey, it’s the holidays. Hand out a gift this week. Give someone a smile.



This article is third in a series of lessons I have learned from my daughter, a young lady with Down syndrome and autism. She doesn’t speak, but she does communicate. I will share some of the many things I have learned from her in this weekly series.



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