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    How your nonverbal cues may be choking your practice

    Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

    “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.”  John Wayne

    Howdy Pilgrim!

    When was the last time you watched a John Wayne movie? A lot of communication truths are clearly illustrated in those Westerns starring a young John Wayne. Wayne rose to stardom in action movies (mostly Westerns) as a slow talking cowboy that the town could trust to do the right thing.

    In your relationships with people at work, you may have to correct their behavior, postpone listening during clinic hours, or in some way disappoint them. To avoid unintentionally creating misunderstandings, become more aware of the unspoken messages you are sending to others. Effectively leading a busy eyecare team while delivering eye health and visual acuity recommendations to nervous patients mean understanding how your message is shaped by your feelings or attitudes.1

    Body language and tone of voice are as important as the words you speak. There is an oft-quoted study by Albert Mehrabian on how people decide whether they like one another.

    Simply put, employees don’t stay in the employment of a doctor they do not like and patients will seldom return for follow-up care. Your ‘first impression’ is the sum of the following:

    •      7% spoken words
    •      38% voice tone
    •      55% general body language

    So what did a successful actor like John Wayne know that we would do well to apply in our offices?

    •      It's not just words: a lot of communication comes through nonverbal means.
    •      Without seeing and hearing nonverbals, it is easier to misunderstand the words.
    •      When we are unsure about what the words mean, we pay more attention to the nonverbals.

    The percentages are subject to change. People (employees and patients) pay more attention to the non-verbal indicators when they trust the person less and suspect deception. It is also generally understood that voice tone and body language are harder to control than words.

    Doctors who exemplify this

    Donna Suter
    Donna Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group.

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