"Studies show that non-verbal communication represents over 55 percent of all communication. If that estimate is accurate, then positive body language is essential to how we present ourselves to patients… It rarely costs time. In fact, it is a time saver and makes for happier, more relaxed patients. This in turn makes for happier and more relaxed nurses." …Scrubs Magazine
Have you ever noticed that when you walk in a room the mood is set within 10 seconds? It is your body language that is speaking before you ever say a word. I attended a business event back in November and Body Language Expert Kevin Hogan gave several examples that were amazing how they affected the whole audience from the stage.
With that said – simply walking into some ones room as a nurse or a friend's house speaks even louder. Kevin says: Since nonverbal communication is between 60 to 75% of the impact of a message, you could use the power of body language to become tremendously successful… in your career, business, relationships, love life, and anything else that involves interacting or communicating with people.
In the first four seconds, people will make judgments about you and tell themselves:
- I will (or will not) buy from this person.
- I will (or will not) like this person.
- I find this person kind (or not).
- I find this person intelligent (or not).
As a mental health nurse you gain a skill to be able to evaluate patients just walking down the hall either speaking a simple "hello" or just passing by. You can feel the emotion of the person you're observing or clearly see if they are calm – thinking – nervous – agitated or unpredictable. Not only do you use that skill with your patients – you use it around your family, at Wal-Mart shopping and with your friends. Most the time it becomes a second nature that is being done without even thinking that you're in observation mode.
Just imagine how much sales you're losing in business or trust with your patients if your body language communicates mistrust or offends your clients… without you being aware of it! If I am not having a good day. It would not be good for me to attempt to listen to someone who is agitated – or emotional, because they will pick up my body language before I say a word.
Most the time I carry a relaxed posture and give the person I am speaking too eye contact that says I am listening to you. If I stand in a "hurry up" pose – or "I am not listening" to you pose. It can cause the conversation to go in the wrong direction. Learning the power of body language can save you the trouble of dealing with people you do not like or trust. It can also calm a hostile situation.
In the article Nurses Safety with Violent and Aggressive Patients, I share a situation about body language that is a perfect example. The man that the staff was speaking too wanted to fight. His posture said "Come on I am ready", however he was waiting on the signal from the body postures around him. As I explained to the male staff later after the situation was over, the importance of not taking the threatens and comments the patient was spewing at us personally (as hard as that is). I explained how he carries his body when in a situation, can either defuse it – or add fuel to the fire.
The explanation that I gave, he understood immediately and could see and feel the difference how he felt. When I speak to a patient who is angry I have relaxed shoulders, palms hanging with open fingers to my side. My feet are placed in a position that I can be in the situation or remove myself from the situation quickly. Feet position should not be facing the person, but slightly at an angle away from the person speaking. As I explained to the staff, there is no shame in running from someone who wants to punch you. As a matter of fact – I can run pretty darn fast. Rarely will they chase you – because they are so shocked you left the scene. Most the time right before I remove myself I will holler loud – calling someone's name or giving a command to the staff around me what needs to be done next. For example, "Call a Code!" The tone of your voice and the loudness startles the person and gives you a split second to get out of the situation.
When you are standing talking to an angry person and you have both feet position facing them and your hands are moving or even slightly clinched. Even crossing your arms over your chest – is a sign that you're ready for action. Your body gets tense; your facial expressions become tense and more readable to the other person. The more relaxed you can keep your body language the better chance you have to talk to someone and not light the fuse.
Your tone of voice is another language that says more than the words being said. Even though, you could be saying the right words. The tone and sarcasms in which the words are spoken change how the conversation will be lead. Once again, a soft low but stern tone with actions that will occur if certain behaviors are not met – also lead the situation to change.
When you ask someone "How are you today" and they say "FINE!" with gritted teeth. You already know that is not true. Or someone will say "Fine." with a sad tone says there is more behind the words. Another example would be said with a question. Using the same word – but has several different meanings.
The last thing a staff needs to do when meeting a patient for the first time is approach them with I am STAFF and you are PATIENT attitude. Your approach can gain you the trust you need to get the inside information from that patient to give them the best care you can provide. Many times getting information to pass on that he or she will not tell a Doctor because some people are intimated by the title.
Are You Making These Mistakes In Body Language?
The next time you are having a conversation. Be in the conversation and watch the body expressions that you see. You will quickly know if the person you are speaking too is bored by the conversation or fully listening and interested within 10 seconds or less. As a matter of fact, I have been talking to someone and observed they were not listening to the conversation and stopped talking to see if they heard what I was saying. Some people will reply "I am listening go ahead." and others did not know the conversation had stopped but added a "uh huh" to fake listening.
You can't make a good first impression through your words alone. In fact, nonverbal communication is between 60 to 75% of the impact of a communication. But despite being the most important aspect, body language is also the most misunderstood and misinterpreted.
What is your body language saying?
Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At AngelaBrook.com, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring passion into their role at work.
She is a natural health expert with 24 years as a nurse she can show you holistic approach helps the entire family physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Clients enjoy getting back to the road of recovery using health alternates for them and their family
Everyday we share insights, strategies and even some of our biggest secrets to nurse entrepreneurs on our Facebook page! Join the fun and connect with like-minded business owners and Nurses EVERY single day! Click here and "become friends" with Angela's NOW!
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