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    How your nonverbal cues may be choking your practice


    The following fictitious doctors are all articulate practitioners who say one thing while communicating something else nonverbally, with disastrous results:

    • Dr. Black believes he is admired by patients and gets along great with employees in the office, but if you were to ask any of them, they would say that Dr. Black is "intimidating" and "very intense." Rather than just looking at you, he seems to devour you with his eyes. And if he takes a patient’s hand, he lunges to get it and then squeezes so hard that it is uncomfortable. Dr. Black is a caring guy who wishes he had more patients and a stronger work-team, but his nonverbal awkwardness keeps people at a distance and limits his ability to grow his practice.
    • Dr. Smith has no problem meeting people, but she has a difficult time keeping employees longer than a few months. Dr. Smith is funny and interesting, but even though she constantly laughs and smiles, she radiates tension. Her shoulders and eyebrows are noticeably raised, her voice is shrill, and her body is stiff. Being around Dr. Smith makes many patients feel uncomfortable and the percentage of established patients returning regularly for care is well below the industry benchmark. Dr. Smith has a lot going for her that is undercut by the discomfort she evokes in others.
    • Dr. Brown thought he found the perfect practice to buy into when he met the founding partner, but the owner wasn't so sure. Dr. Brown is hard working and a smooth talker, but seems to care more about his thoughts than those of the more senior staff members. When the lead tech has something to say, Dr. Brown is always ready with wild eyes and a rebuttal before she can finish her thought. This defensiveness makes the staff feel ignored and this once stable team is now a revolving door of new employee after new employee. He loses out with patients for the same reason. His inability to listen to others makes him unpopular with many of the patients the partners hired him to see.

    Evaluating nonverbal signs

    Donna Suter
    Donna Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group.

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