Non-verbal communication is often more important than verbal communication
Non-verbal communication often speaks much louder than verbal communication, not just in Western culture, but in Asian culture too. In the West it is well known that non-verbal communication can account for anywhere between sixty to ninety percent of the sum of all communication. Therefore, in WNES healthcare it is crucial that nurses become aware of the exact non-verbal signals, or body language, that they are sending to patients and other colleagues. Patients are often in very vulnerable and sensitive states of mind throughout their hospitalization and sometimes the nurse only needs to make the slightest unintentional slip, such as avoiding eye contact. and the therapeutic patient-nurse relationship might be seriously compromised. Similarly, relationships between healthcare colleagues can also suffer or degenerate due to poor non-verbal communication; this can result in unnecessary interpersonal
stress for those concerned, which, in an area of employment where pressures are already very high, is hardly ideal.
There is a great deal of literature available for you to read on the area of non-verbal communication. Allow me to just spell out a few essential rules though:
1. Eye contact is essential. People may think you are not interested in what they are saying if your eye contact is inadequate. On the other hand don't stare at people! When you do occasionally look away it's best to do so whilst you yourself are talking as opposed to when your patient/colleague is.
2. Facial expression needs to be appropriate to the situation & generally one that demonstrates interest and concern.
3. Smiling is a really important way of conveying approval, interest, encouragement or humour. Don't hesitate to smile whenever you see your patients or colleagues. Smiles are also context sensitive though! If a patient is telling you they are in pain or disclosing their psychological distress you would smile a lot less frequently in that situation; you might, however, still occasionally smile gently as a sign of approval or encouragement. Whatever you do, be sensitive to how the other person reacts or responds to you and modulate your non-verbal
4. Your posture needs to be relaxed in appearance and you should be face on to the person you are communicating with. Be cautious of folding your arms or fidgeting with your hands as these can be perceived as signs of defensiveness or inattentiveness respectively.
5. Physical proximity should be optimum, i.e. neither stand to far away from nor too close to the other person In order to express real interest in hearing a patient out, you best sit down to talk with them, because as I alluded to earlier standing can convey a message that you are in a hurry to tend to other duties.
6. Tone of voice can often be a more important signal of the nurse's real feelings than their actual verbal content, so send relaxing communication signals to your patient by speaking to them in a calm, gentle voice that isn't too fast.