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Body Language Cues for Nurses

Body Language Cues for Nurses

Sharon Sayler | Scrubs Magazine

As a healthcare provider, you know that a patient’s body language often tells you more than her words do about how she’s feeling. At the same time, you’re sending your patients messages with your own body language. Rarely do we think about what message our body language might be sending. If your body language is relaxed and confident, you can help patients feel more relaxed and confident.

Many of your gestures, or nonverbals, are called baseline behaviors. You do them every day. You’ve been doing them for years. They’re automatic and may or may not be sending the message you want.

Five Body Gestures to Avoid

The following common five gestures do not display self-confidence; in fact, they actually lower your image in the eyes of the patient and fellow healthcare providers.

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1. Fig-leaf hands. When you stand with one hand on top of the other, covering the groin region, you look smaller. Your body is saying, “I’m harmless,” “I’m shy” or “I’m afraid.” No matter how confident you feel or how much you know, the fig-leaf pose says, “I’m trying to be small.”

It’s like calling someone on the phone and then saying, “Oh, it’s just me.” No! It’s not just you! It’s You. The confident You. Get rid of that fig-leaf gesture (and the “fig-leaf” words “just me”).

2. Hands or thumbs in pockets. Hanging your thumbs off of your pockets, or having your hands deep in your pockets, usually sends a message of diminished self-confidence, something like “Geez, I hope you like me.” Worse yet, hands in pockets jiggling change is as good as saying, “I’m nervous and I hope you like me.” It can also send a message of exaggerated self-importance such as “I know I’m pretty neat” or “Let’s get moving here, I’m really bored.”

Pockets and waistbands are fraught with meaning. Tucking your thumbs into your waistband usually says, “I’m staking my territory,” which is a gesture of power, not influence. Avoid pockets and waistbands.

Next: Hands Behind Your Back >>

Featured Author: SCRUBS MAGAZINE
Scrubs Magazine is a lifestyle website 100 percent for and about nurses. Here you’ll find articles written by and for nurses about beauty, money, style, health, and wellness. features active conversations with nurse bloggers ranging from a newly minted nurse to a seasoned RN to a misunderstood male nurse. Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook.

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