Are your instinctive gestures while communicating betraying your message?
The only way to answer that question is by practicing self-awareness. Self-awareness is by no means a new concept, but it can be something you turn a blind eye to unknowingly amid everyday life. And if you’re like most people, you likely do not regularly ask for feedback from others regarding your body language.
Body language and self-awareness go hand-in-hand and are particularly pertinent in the profession of nursing. It is crucial that you convey confidence, certainty, and credibility when caring for your patients and, though that is always the intention, your body language may be communicating other messages.
Take Clint Lange BSN, RN, for example. Lange reveals the nervousness he experienced on his first day as a new graduate with patients of his own. He was working in a Level 1 trauma center ICU and while aiming to maintain a calm façade, his patient detected his nervousness from his bodily behaviors (Lange, 2016). He discusses the challenge he faced in regaining his patient’s trust after unknowingly relaying nervousness. Interestingly, Lange realized on his first day that both nurses and patients are observing each other equally (Lange, 2016). As Lange was carefully observing the patient for signs of discomfort, so too was the patient measuring Lange’s facial and bodily gestures for information about his/her condition (Lange, 2016).
Think of the well-known phrase, the medium is the message. A nurse serves as the medium, the primary vehicle of communication in a patient’s care. That said, your body language needs to coincide with and support your message to your patients because it's less important that they hear what you say and more important that they understand what you mean. The delivery of the message, taking all factors into consideration such as posture, facial expressions, and nervous habits, carries the same (if not more) importance.
Remember, it’s not you, it’s probably your nonverbal cues. Try to be cognizant of your body language and be aware of your audience and atmosphere in your setting as much as possible. Is your body language drawing attention away from your message? Is your body language fostering open communication and creating an inviting climate? Do you detect any signs of uncertainty in your speech? Consider talking to yourself in the mirror to be an audience member of your own message and objectively evaluate your body language.
Lange, C. (2016, April). Nursing and the importance of body language. Nursing2016, 46(4), 48-49. Retrieved from https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=3409185&Journal_ID=54016&Issue_ID=3409057
More Reading and Resources
Nursing and the Importance of Body Language
Body Language: Melting Pain Into Song.
Evidence-based Approaches to Breaking Down Language Barriers