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Actions Speak Louder Than Words—Particularly at Work!

Monday, August 6, 2018   (0 Comments)
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A lot of attention in training and professional development programs focus on the verbal messages given and received at the office, but it’s the nonverbal message that carries more weight! Yet, how many times do you listen to and believe the verbal message and completely overlook the nonverbal message?

As an administrator, do you want to see which of your staff members are engaged, passionate, and committed to you and the practice? You can if you pay attention to their nonverbal communication—and to your own nonverbal communication! When I say nonverbal communication, I also include facial expressions.

  1. If your staff member stops making eye contact or significantly decreases eye contact, this is a message of disengagement. If their eyes go from wide open and alert to barely open and/or closed, they have gone to sleep, disengaged, or may be having trouble understanding what is being discussed. At this point, stop and regain engagement. (Keep in mind there are cultural issues with eye contact, but I will not go into that here).
  2. If the smile is not genuine, it indicates disengagement and lack of connection.
  3. Has the genuine smile evaporated? Pursed lips may mean the employee is withholding something. A clenched jaw could indicate that they're angry, upset, or frustrated. If their body is facing you but their head is turned sideways, this indicates disagreement, an unwillingness to listen, or a desire for escape.
  4. If their shoulders are turned slightly away from you, they haven’t lost interest, they could be very interested. Squared shoulders to you and arms crossed shows confrontation and disagreement.
  5. If a crossed leg is pointing towards the door during a discussion, that is an indication of their desire to escape. If their ankles are crossed and tucked under the chair, that is their indication that they really don’t want to be there. If their legs are wrapped around each other (usually performed by women, but I have seen this in men), this indicates their shyness unless they are a well-known contortionist.

If you notice your staff members moving into any of these behaviors and the person tells you s/he is just fine, put a question mark by what is being said and believe their body language. Get them out of any defensive positions. Have a smurf ball handy to throw. Hand them a piece of paper; tell an appropriate joke and let everyone get a good belly laugh! Hand (not offer) them a glass of water/coffee. The challenge for you is to change their body position and, therefore, change their physiology and psychology.

It’s easy to spot other people’s nonverbal communication, but what about your own? Is your staff, in the situations noted above, mirroring your body language? Are you mirroring their body language?  Does your nonverbal behavior emotionally draw staff members closer to you or distance them from you?

We know empirically that certain gestures create the emotional connection with those around you! And that’s what a leader wants to do—create the emotional connection in order to move people from where they currently are to where they need to be in order for the practice to run more smoothly, effectively, and serve the needs of patients. Check your behavior to make certain you aren’t creating something contagious by your own nonverbal communication.

Be sure to join Dr. Linda Talley on August 16th for her program on Creating a Professional Presence and Command the Room where she will give you nine clues as to what your nonverbal communication is saying to staff as well as patients. This seminar is based on her most current research as well as other extant research.


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