4.2.3 Using non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication includes eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, looking attentive, posture, nodding one’s head and other movements.

Non-verbal communication also involves both the patient and the health-care provider. The behaviour of the health-care provider can give strong messages to show respect for and interest in the patient: It also builds a relationship, shows that the health-care provider is listening carefully and shows that they want to help the patient understand about TB and treatment. Health-care providers should use non-verbal communication to show that they are actively listening; this includes eye contact, smiling, nodding, and sitting down while talking. The health-care provider should avoid doing things like looking at their watch or fidgeting.

A patient’s expressions also communicate emotions. Movements of eyes, mouth, eyebrows, forehead or even nostrils in different combinations signal happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust, fear and interest. A slightly furrowed forehead will usually mean that the person either disagrees with what is being said or does not understand. That simple expression alone can show that they need more explanation. Because tension and anxiety may be reflected in body language, a reasonable guess at a person’s state of mind can be made simply from looking at their posture. People who are anxious or worried about something tend to adopt characteristically tense positions of the hands, which may be clasped tightly together, or of legs, which may be wrapped around each other or the feet may tap repeatedly on the floor. Often without the need for any words, these clues can alert an observant health-care provider to investigate further.

Book navigation